rolisz's site en Sat, 13 Jan 2018 20:44:00 GMT acrylamid 0.7.10 Mass Effect Andromeda <p><img alt="Mass Effect Andromeda poster" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>I have been a huge Mass Effect fan. I loved the first game as soon as I played. I found the story fascinating, the science there amazing. I played the games and read the books and got to know the universe pretty well. But then Mass Effect 3 came out and I was fairly dissappointed by it. And now, after a long break, the latest game in the series came out, Andromeda.</p> <p>As you can guess from the name, this game happens in the Andromeda galaxy, so it's a complete break from everything we've seen previously. All new planets, all new starts, all new enemies. In fact, the story sets off right before Mass Effect 2 or 3, and then skips 600 hundred years into the future, but in a complete isolation. </p> <p>Because I'm a grownup with a job now, I didn't have time to play it right away. I actually waited for a while and bought it on a sale two months later. And it took me more than half a year to finish the single player campaign.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="The Nexus" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>The Nexus, the central hub for the Milky Way species</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>Mass Effect Andromeda had a pretty botched launch. It had a lot of bugs and people especially liked to make fun of the facial animations. Because of this, BioWare had to release several patches for it in the first two months. Because of this, I actually had fairly low expectations (and also because I really didn't like <a href="">Mass Effect 3</a>).</p> <p>But my low expectations were fully met and even gone over. Too bad sales sucked, so Bioware pretty much shelved Mass Effect for a while. I did find that the science part of the game went away. While in the original one they had several pages explaining how Element Zero works and how FTL flight happens, now they very handwavily skip over how they travelled between galaxies in one sentence and that's it. Also how does SAM, the resident AI, interact with the local ancient technology? Well, it's an AI, of course it can do that. Ugh. </p> <p>Once you arrive in Andromeda, you realize that all the planets that the Andromeda Initiative magically saw, before leaving the Milky Way, are uninhabitable and that there is this weird Scourge that fries all electronics. But luckily, you find some abandoned technology, called Remnant for some reason I can't figure out, on the first planet that you crash on and it start terraforming the planet. Unluckily, you find some aliens, called Kett, which you call the same as everyone else, without agreeing to it before, also interested in that tech and they shoot first, ask questions later. But luckily again, you find some other aliens, the Angara (at least they give you their name), who are more friendly. </p> <figure> <p><img alt="The Remnant Vault" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>A Remnant vault, which terraforms planets</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>So you go around various planets, doing the usual Mass Effect side missions and levelling up. The difference is that now you have to unlock the vaults that have the Remnant tech and terraform the planets, transforming them from dreadful and deadly places to cozy homes. In the meantime you fight off the Kett and of course you deal with all the politics people brought from Milky Way.</p> <p>The Kett become a bigger and bigger problem, so the solution is to get rid of them. You go for the Kett head honcho, The Archon, who is an arrogant bastard. You fall for a stupid trap, but of course you manage to escape. In the meantime, you learn that the Jardaan created the Remnant, but they were attacked by somebody with the Scourge. And poof, now they're gone. You defeat the Archon, you find a really cool Dyson sphere and everyone is happy. Yaaaay. </p> <p>The storyline is actually promising, but the problem is that they clearly intended to have some DLCs. There are so many hints dropped only to pique your interest, fragments of really cool information, but which are never fully developed, so you are left hanging. And Bioware confirmed that they won't be releasing any DLCs. Why did you do this to us? Whyyyy?</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Part of the gang" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Ryder with 4 of the team members</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>Your new squad mates are quite interesting. You have the 1000 year old krogan, who's seen it all, except a new galaxy. You've got the human biotic who trained with asari commandos. There's the rebellious and playful asari scientist, who's obsessed with the Remnant. One of the angara joins you and spreads the zen around. The turian is the smuggler/black-market dealer type. And lastly, you've got another human, who used to be some sort of special police back on Earth.</p> <p>The dialogue is pretty good, plenty of jokes to go around. Especially while you are driving, your team mates start talking among themselves, usually annoying each other, so it prevents you from being too bored from driving around. </p> <p>Combat is quite fun. A new addition is that you have a jet pack that you can use to jump (finaaaaally!) and hover while shooting. This means that you can jump on your enemies and rain destruction from above on them. There is also a weird profile system (such as soldier or biotic specialist), where you can switch between them at will. In practice, I found it quite cumbersome, because switching profiles trigger the cool downs for all your powers. So I settled for the profile that gave me the syphoning ability: melee attacks would fix my shields. </p> <figure> <p><img alt="The Tempest" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Your ship, the Tempest</figcaption> </p> </figure> <p>Graphics/physics: I was expecting better from a modern AAA game. While the facial animation glitches didn't bother me so much, I was frustrated by seeing how many times solid objects would move through each other or would move in other impossible ways. I mean, it's 2017, how come collision detection is still so buggy? Also, your vehicle can move in... um... funny ways. </p> <p>The worlds where you play are quite big and varied. You've got everything from desert to tropical to frozen wastelands. You drive around in some all terrain vehicle, which occasionally moves in weird ways. The most annoying part is with mountains, which are tempting to try to go over in the car, but it usually ends up being slower than going around. </p> <p>The soundtrack is pretty decent. It gives you the chills sometimes, but most often it's just not memorable. </p> <p>I think I'll give the game a 7/10. It was fun to play, but it had plenty of quirks that were annoying, especially for a Mass Effect game.</p> Sat, 13 Jan 2018 20:44:00 GMT,2018-01-13:/2018/01/13/mass-effect-andromeda 2017 in Review <p>Blogging got put on the backburner this year, for a good reason though: I got married, so other stuff become more important. While I did still have a blogging goal, it was more reduced, to 1.5 posts a month, which I did actually managed to beat. I wrote 22 blog posts last year, averaging 1.83 per month, which is around 33% less than the year before.</p> <p>Pageviews tracked number of posts in their downward trend, dropping by 29% to 26 thousand. Number of users went down to 10 thousand, but at least session length stayed around the same (1 minute and 5 seconds, compared to 1 minute and 8 seconds the year before).</p> <p>The day with the most page views was on February 23. I don’t know what happened then. It was just after the post about backups, but that was not the most visited thing, only the homepage, totaling 583 page views. The second most visited thing was on April 24, which is the day after I posted about <a href="">my engagement</a>, when my blog was visited 520 times.</p> <p>My most popular page remains the same: the neural networks one. The engagement post was by far my most popular one this year, with 436 views. Closely following it were the <a href="">three year retrospective</a> and the <a href="">how to organize a wedding</a> one, with 248 and 221 views.</p> <p>It’s a bit sad to see most of the numbers going down for the second year in a row, but I wasn't expecting anything else. I didn't have much time this year to work on my blog, so that’s what I get. Hopefully, in 2018 some things will change and I will be able to write more cool stuff (including technical posts)!</p> Mon, 01 Jan 2018 23:26:00 GMT,2018-01-02:/2018/01/02/2017-in-review Let's go to Africa <p><img alt="Arriving in Mauritius" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Because of work, I couldn't take a long, proper vacation right after our wedding, so we decided that after some deadlines at the beginning of September, we would do a nice, two week honeymoon. Given that I love flying and I need the frequent flier miles, while my wife was not so thrilled about the idea of spending more than 10 hours in a tin coffin whizzing around the air at 900km/h, we had to find a middle ground. After lots of searching on Pinterest for honeymoon locations, we decided to go to Mauritius. It's fairly far, it got me the miles I needed to keep my Gold status, we got to visit a new continent (well, kinda) and it was less than 10 hours of flight per segment. </p> <figure> <p><img alt="On the highway in Mauritius" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption> On the highway in Mauritius </figcaption></p> </figure> <p>For those of you who haven't heard of Mauritius, it's an island close to Madagascar, about 2000 km to the east of Africa. It's not to be confused with Mauritania, which is on the west coast of Africa. Mauritius is really small, 2040 km^2, less than the size of a county in Romania and with a population of 1.2 million people. It was uninhabited until 1507, when the Portuguese came and promptly ate all the dodos that were on the island, which went extinct when the Dutch came to the island. The Dutch were replaced by the French and then by the British. The island gained its independence in 1968. It currently is ranked as the most democratic country in Africa and it has a woman as president, Ameenah Gurib.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Green wall at the airport" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption> Green wall at the airport </figcaption></p> </figure> <p>The first impression upon arriving in L'ile Maurice was really good. The airport is very clean and well maintained (much nicer than the one in Cluj). The taxi I ordered was waiting for us and the driver was very courteous. And the roads, oh those roads. They were better than in Romania. Maybe I had gotten my knowledge from the wrong movies, but I was certainly expecting a lot more potholes. Well, there were 0 potholes. And there was a highway! With beautiful views along the way! The airport is in the southeastern side of the island, while our hotel was on the northwestern side, so we got to see quite a lot of the island on our way there. It got us super excited for the upcoming two weeks!</p> <p>Opposed to my expectations from movies, Mauritius has a quite developed economy. Its GDP per capita is ever so slightly higher than Romania's. Prices were also quite similar, for things like restaurants or groceries. But once when we went off the "beaten", touristy path, we saw a lot of shanties, so I'm curious how much can people who live there afford.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Hotel lobby. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The beach in front of our hotel. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The hotel pool. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Sunset from our room. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/20170916_144834.jpg", "title": "Hotel lobby.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/thumbs/20170916_144834.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/20170916_150403.jpg", "title": "The beach in front of our hotel.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/thumbs/20170916_150403.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/20170923_141514.jpg", "title": "The hotel pool.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/thumbs/20170923_141514.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/IMG_20170923_175127.jpg", "title": "Sunset from our room.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/thumbs/IMG_20170923_175127.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/20170929_152829.jpg", "title": "Our hotel room. \n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/thumbs/20170929_152829.jpg", "w": 3096, "h": 4128}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/IMG_20170923_172822.jpg", "title": "A chinese grocery store close to our hotel.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/hotel/thumbs/IMG_20170923_172822.jpg", "w": 3036, "h": 4048}]</script> </div> <p>While our hotel room was right next to the ocean, we initially had some problems with the hotel. The WiFi was extremely crappy. I normally have my own WiFi extender, but because I never used it, this was the first time that I didn't pack it with me <em>facepalm</em>. After asking at the reception, they gave us a small router for our own room. Then, the shower drain got clogged. Then the sink got clogged. Then the breakers for some of the outlets got interrupted. That took some time to figure out. And last, but most "fun": we had a fairly large spider in our room. And it ran really faaaaaast. But I managed to hunt it down! So I got extra brownie points with my wife :D </p> <p><img alt="Nearby beach" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>We spent the first couple of days relaxing, exploring the nearby beaches. The beach right next to us was rocky right, but another nicer one was about 50 metres away and a really nice one, in Pointe aux Biches, about half an hour away. That one had the advantage of being close to a supermarket and several restaurants, so it quickly became our favorite spot to swim around and snorkel (for me) and sunbathe (for my wife). </p> <p><img alt="Miniature ship" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>On Wednesday we got a taxi tour of the island. The driver came to pick us up at 9 AM. The drive took us through some scenic routes, along the "mountains" of Mauritius, with peaks such as Pieter Both. The first stop was at a handmade miniature ship factory and then at several local silk and cashmere shops, where we got some deals that I'm sure were amazing (I should really improve my negotiation skills :|).</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Monkey kingdom. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Humans feed fish, cats eat fish. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Some Hindu gods. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/20170920_115312.jpg", "title": "Monkey kingdom.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/thumbs/20170920_115312.jpg", "w": 3096, "h": 4128}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/IMG_20170920_115528.jpg", "title": "Humans feed fish, cats eat fish.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/thumbs/IMG_20170920_115528.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/IMG_20170920_120006.jpg", "title": "Some Hindu gods.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/thumbs/IMG_20170920_120006.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/P1160919.JPG", "title": "The 80 meter tall statue.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/temple/thumbs/P1160919.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>Then we went to the Ganga Talao, the largest Hindu temple in Mauritius, situated in Grand Bassin. The temple has 108 feet tall bronze statue of Shiva. It also has lots of monkeys and cats and there is a fish feeding place. It was my first larger contact with Hindu religion and... most of their gods look ugly and scary :/ </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The red earth. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The seven coloured earth. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Valley in the middle of Mauritius. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Chamarel Waterfalls. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/20170916_142448.jpg", "title": "The red earth.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/thumbs/20170916_142448.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/20170920_142947.jpg", "title": "The seven coloured earth.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/thumbs/20170920_142947.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/IMG_20170920_121854.jpg", "title": "Valley in the middle of Mauritius.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/thumbs/IMG_20170920_121854.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/IMG_20170920_140929.jpg", "title": "Chamarel Waterfalls.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/thumbs/IMG_20170920_140929.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/IMG_20170920_143730.jpg", "title": "Turtles visiting from Seychelles.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/chamarel/thumbs/IMG_20170920_143730.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}]</script> </div> <p>Then we went to Chamarel, which has some picturesque waterfalls and a seven coloured earth. Mauritians have something with coloured earths: there's a region called Terre Rouge (with red soil), there's this 7 coloured one and then there's another one with 23 colours. Btw, we had to squint really hard to see even the 7 colours, but it was definitely pretty. </p> <p><img alt="Delicious crab soup" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>For lunch we had some crab soup. Even though she doesn't like seafood, my wife had to admit that the soup was delicious (but she didn't taste the crab meat :))).</p> <p>Taxis work interestingly on Mauritius. You can get a taxi from the airport to anywhere on the island for a flat fee of about 35 euros. In our case, the ride was about one hour. Renting a taxi for a full day of driving around, with the driver explaining things to us, was about 70 euros. But taking a taxi from one of the malls to our hotel, a 15 minute ride, was about 15-20 euros, so disproportionately expensive. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The Mauritius Aquarium " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="One of the fishies from Nemo! " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Ugly sea bugs. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Large Moray Eel. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/20170923_170011.jpg", "title": "The Mauritius Aquarium\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/thumbs/20170923_170011.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/20170926_150115.jpg", "title": "One of the fishies from Nemo!\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/thumbs/20170926_150115.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/20170926_153553.jpg", "title": "Ugly sea bugs.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/thumbs/20170926_153553.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/IMG_20170926_153650.jpg", "title": "Large Moray Eel.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/thumbs/IMG_20170926_153650.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/IMG_20170926_153718.jpg", "title": "Sharks. Tam-tam-tam-tam!\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/aquarium/thumbs/IMG_20170926_153718.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}]</script> </div> <p>Another day we went to the Mauritius Aquarium, which was about 10 minutes from our hotel. We saw some of the fishies from Finding Nemo :D And sharks! And moray eels! And some ugly looking water bugs. We went right around feeding time and we chatted with one of the employees. He was a very friendly guy. He thought I looked Chinese (along with another person :|) and he had a nephew who had studied medicine in Romania and acquired an iPhone via dubious means. True story. </p> <p>There were many street hawkers trying to sell you stuff on the beaches. After I paid more than I want to admit for an ice cream, we mostly refused them, but there was one very friendly guy, Rajesh Jugnarain, who came to us on several days and got us a pretty good deal on a speedboat ride to the Ile aux Benitiers. Thaaaat was fuuuuun. So, if you ever go to Mauritius, make sure you ask Rajesh for some excursions. And check out the reviews we wrote in Romanian in his notebook.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="L" ile aux benitier. ' src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Swimming with the dolphins. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="This rock used to be underwater! Pesky global warming cannot happen soon enough! " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/20170927_110821.jpg", "title": "L'Ile aux Benitier.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/thumbs/20170927_110821.jpg", "w": 3096, "h": 4128}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/20170927_092841.jpg", "title": "Swimming with the dolphins.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/thumbs/20170927_092841.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/20170927_104238.jpg", "title": "This rock used to be underwater! Pesky global warming cannot happen soon enough!\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/thumbs/20170927_104238.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/20170927_135457.jpg", "title": "Beautiful water.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/12/mauritius/speedboat/thumbs/20170927_135457.jpg", "w": 4128, "h": 3096}]</script> </div> <p>We had two guides, one of whom was piloting the boat. He drove as fast as possible, racing with another boat, which eventually got entangled in some fishing lines. He also wanted to make sure we get as wet as possible, especially my wife xD The other passengers on the boat were a family from South Africa who had a winery. The guy was from France and he had lived in Bora Bora for a while. There was also a family from London. They had a 20 year old daughter, but the mother looked so young that we thought the two were sisters. Even her husband made fun of her for going out to clubs with her daughter and getting smashed together.</p> <p>With the speedboat we first went to a spot where we could swim with the dolphins. I feel kinda guilty, because I think it qualifies as animal abuse :| There were three dolphins, which spent most of their time at the bottom of the sea, but whenever they came up for air, all the pesky humans would jump into the water to get close to them. But of course, the dolphins would vanish again soon.</p> <p>Ile aux Benitiers has a beautiful, fine sand, with clear turquoise water. The guides also cooked an amazing lunch, with barbecue chicken with best sauces in the world. We washed everything down with some Jungle Juice. I don't want to know what it contained, but it was good. </p> <p><img alt="Sunrise picture" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>On our last day, my wife insisted that we wake up to see the sunrise. I have faith that it would have happened even without me seeing it, but oh well, we woke up a bit before 6. Only to find out.... that we are on the western side of the island and the sun rises in the east, so we couldn't see anything. But at least we got a nice picture out of it!</p> <p><img alt="Sandcastle" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Like with going to the circus, I also wanted to fill another important gap from my childhood: building a sandcastle, which I had never done before. So we bought a small plastic shovel and some cooking molds and on the last day we went to build a sandcastle. One more thing crossed off my childhood list! Success! </p> <figure> <p><img alt="View from our fancy room" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>View from our fancy room</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>Afterwards, we went to the airport. Because I have Gold Status on Turkish Airlines, we went to the business lounge and had a meal. While checking whether boarding of our flight has started, suddenly something interesting showed up, as if it were for the next day. I check on Google. It had said something about a delay, but now it didn't say that anymore. We go to the gate and we are informed.... that the plane won't arrive that night, so we will fly out more the following morning \:D/ Wooohoo! My first cancelled flight, in more than 100 flights! Soooo exciting! (I'm not kidding, finally something to make flying a bit less monotonic). The good side: Turkish Airlines payed for us a reaaaaally fancy hotel room (more like suite with a jacuzzi). The bad side: they screwed up organizing a transport to the hotel so we waited at the airport for more than two hours and the hotel was an hour away, so we ended up sleeping there for like 4 hours only :/</p> <p><img alt="Us smiling on a beach" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Mauritius was a pleasant surprise for me. I had much lower expectations, so it easily surpassed them. It also helped that the temperature was always between 21 and 28 degrees, so it was pretty much always pleasant. That's winter in Mauritius for you!</p> Sat, 30 Dec 2017 22:12:00 GMT,2017-12-30:/2017/12/30/let-s-go-to-africa The Last Jedi <p><img alt="Star Wars The Last Jedi Poster" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>A new Star Wars movie just came out and another Christmas is around so this year's Christmas party at Google was the screening of The Last Jedi, one day before the public launch.</p> <p>While I really enjoyed <a href="">The Force Awakens</a>, I was pretty disappointed in The Last Jedi. It was a really long movie (2 and a half hours). Seriously, what's up with movies lately? I thought people started having super short attention spans due to Twitter, yet almost every movie I watched in the cinema this year was longer than two hours. The new director takes the movie into some new directions. He reveals that several mysterious plot points from the previous movie were MacGuffins and he makes some bold revelations about the nature of the Force. I’m in the group of people that weren’t satisfied with this. But at least the movie is beautiful, with amazing visuals. Another complaint I have is that I think they had a disturbing lack of <del>faith</del> lightsaber duels. The ones they had were really good, but I think they were fewer than in previous movies. Also, those annoying puffins, I mean porgs, they're everywhere and they make squeaky sounds that make you want to eat them all, just like Chewbacca did.</p> <p><em>From here be spoilers</em> <!--more--></p> <p>The story is somewhat similar to the Empire Strikes Back. The rebel base is under attack and they are evacuating, while Rey is off to train with Luke. Poe pulls off some crazy stunts and manages to destroy a dreadnought so the Rebel ships can escape.</p> <p>But, they are tracked through hyperspace, via some of the worst sciencey mumbo-jumbo I've heard in a movie. The rebel ships are low on fuel, so they start off at full speed, without jumping to Warp, because they know it would be pointless, so they are just trying to buy some time. Poe tries to find out their plan, but he has been demoted to Captain, so he's not told anything.</p> <p><img alt="Rey training" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>In the meantime, Rey is trying to convince Luke to come out of retirement and train her in the ways of the Jedi. He is quite reluctant and only after much insistence on her side agrees to teach her three lessons, but he ends up only actually teaching her two, before she leaves. She also starts communicating with Kylo Ren through the Force. Even though initially they hate each other, they start bonding and get closer, encouraging each other and keeping each other company.</p> <p>Finn is sent from the Rebel ships to a casino, together with a mechanic, to find a master code breaker. They get into trouble for parking their space shuttle on the beach, are sent to jail and they manage to escape with the help of another code breaker, played by Benicio del Toro, who offers a delightful performance. They set free some circus animals and then they go back to infiltrate the First Order’s ship. </p> <p><img alt="Benicio del Toro playing a code cracker" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>The rebel ships are getting bombarded in the meantime, some of them get blown up and at some point the bridge, where Leia is, is blown up and she flies out into the cold vacuum of space. Quiet, slow, panning shot of her frozen body floating through space, only for her fingers to start moving and she uses the Force to fly back to the ship.</p> <p>After receiving two lessons from Luke, Rey thinks she can turn Ren so she leaves the remote island. Ren of course takes her captive and brings her in front of Supreme Leader Snoke. Snoke boasts how he planned everything and orders Ren to kill Rey, but instead Ren turns on him, cuts him in half with a lightsaber. The two then fight off his personal guard in a pretty impressive lightsaber fight. Rey wants to leave with Ren, but he actually wants to take Snokes place. Ah, poor, naive Rey. </p> <p>In the meantime, the rebels are abandoning their big ship in little transports, hoping they can get away undetected to an old Rebel base. Unfortunately, they are betrayed and start getting blown up. Admiral Holdo, who was the leader of the rebellion while Leia was in a coma, decides to turn around the big ship, point it toward the bad guys and jump to FTL. The baddies ship is sliced into several pieces and the rebels can make it to their base safely. </p> <p><img alt="Finn and Rose" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>The Rebel base is on a salty planet, which makes everything to be white on the surface, but just under it there some red stuff. The visuals are amazing here. All the battles look really good, with the red stuff flying around on every impact, on a white background. Kylo Ren arrives soon, armed with some AT-T walkers and they are trying to kill all rebels. The rebels launch a fairly pathetic defense, but they get their butts kicked so they start retreating. And then, Luke shows up. He greets his sister, whom he hasn’t seen in a long time, gives her Han Solo’s lucky charm and then goes out to fight Kylo Ren. But, surprise, it’s not actually Luke, just his projection. He created this as a diversion, to give time for the rebelion to evacuate. But after the mock fight is over, Luke is watching as the sun sets on his planet and then he vanishes into thin air, becoming one with the force. </p> <p>On the Millenium Falcon, the Rebels celebrate, because they are the spark that will light the fire that will destroy the First Order (as they've kept repeating throughout the whole movie).</p> <p>The large story line of the movie was good. The parts with Rey and Ren were really great and it was really nice to learn more about them. But the rest of the movie had so many stupid ideas, that it just leaves me with sour taste in my mouth. </p> <p>First, there is the scientific idiocies. While yes, this is a sci-fi movie with a magical force, it mostly still follows some scientific rules and when they get broken, you can’t do anything except facepalm. For example, the bombers which attack the dreadnaught in the opening sequence release their bombs and they fall towards the dreadnaught. In space. Bombs. Falling. In the absence of gravity. Also, the way they pretended to explain the tracking through hyperspace (mind you, by a former soldier and by a mechanic) made 0 sense. And you would think that if they have robots that can move around on their own, they would also have autopilots that can keep ships on their straight ahead course, so that nobody has to be left behind during evacuation. And lastly, how come nobody ever thought until now to attack by jumping into FTL? It seems like with that you could have easily destroyed even the Death Star. Is Admiral Holdo such an amazing genius? I don’t think so. </p> <p><img alt="Those annoying puffins!!!!" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Then there are the jokes. Oh, the stupid jokes. When Rey gives Luke his old lightsaber, he looks at it and then throws it behind his back, off a cliff. Mark Hamill does a really good impression of grumpy old men while playing Luke. Luke at some point milks a weird alien seal-like creature. And Rey somehow always manages to interfere with the caretakers of the Jedi temple, in a slapstick comedy way. This is just not Star Wars, I’m sorry. </p> <p>Then there is the whole subplot with Finn, Poe and Rose, which might as well be a PETA documentary, because they don’t achieve anything except give a moralizing lesson about the cruelty of animal racing and about income inequality. And the whole thing could have been avoided if Holdo had told Poe what’s the plan, like you know, you would it to one of your best pilots. </p> <p>There are two new Force features introduced: flying in hard vacuum. While by itself it’s not very surprising, the annoying thing is that Leia does this, who has previously never been shown to do anything with the Force (except feel when Han dies). How come she can suddenly master this thing? And the other one is Luke’s holographic projection. Where did that one come from? It’s great that we learn about new abilities, but both of these things were complete Deus Ex Machinas. And let’s not forget how the big, powerful Snoke, who manipulated Rey and Ren over cosmic distances, is fooled by Ren while he is manipulating two lightsabers. </p> <p>It could have been such a good movie… Oh well, let’s hope number 9, which is directed by JJ Abrams again (as The Force Awakens), will be better. Unfortunately, we have two more years to wait :(</p> <p>Grade: 6/10</p> Tue, 19 Dec 2017 22:21:00 GMT,2017-12-19:/2017/12/19/the-last-jedi Show-ing off <p><img alt="2 Cellos concert in Zurich" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Last weekend was a very “cultured” one for me. On Friday evening I went to a 2Cellos concert. And boy, did that concert rock. For those who don’t know them, 2Cellos is made by two cello players who take modern songs and adapt them for the cello. They play a large variety of songs, from Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal (their debut hit), to movie soundtracks (Gladiator or Inception), to rock songs (such as Thunderstruck) to mellow songs such as U2’s With or without you (aka the trailer song from Downton Abbey season 2).</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen class="youtube"></iframe> <p>To some extent, they remind me of the Piano Guys, to whose concert I went in June. Both bands do classical takes of modern pop songs and modern takes on classical songs. I think that musically, 2 Cellos plays better and they use (and abuse) the cellos much better than the Piano Guys do. Also, their drummer is amazing. That kid goes to town on the drums. But their interaction with the audience is inferior to that of the Piano Guys. Stjepan made the same stupid joke all evening, while Luka talked only a little.</p> <p>All in all, it was a fairly fun concert. But my culture-ing continued the next day, when I went to a circus. For some reason, I kinda missed out on this experience as a kid, so I decided it’s nigh time to fix this crucial missing element of my childhood.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Guy standing on ladder at circus" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Don't just stand there!</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>So, there were mostly kids there. But I still had fun, so whatever. And I was actually blown away right from the beginning. A guy comes in with a ladder and a toolbox. After fumbling and stumbling, he takes the ladder, props it up into thin air and climbs on it. And flips around on it. And lets it fall down so that he lands perfectly between two rungs. And jumps through rungs while flicking it around.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Juggling, while standing on person balancing on ball" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Juggling, while standing on a person, who is balancing on a board, which is moving on a cylinder, which is on a table. Also known as having a deathwish for most of us. </figcaption></p> </figure> <p>While I expected different acrobatic acts, and Circus Monti delivered on those, I did not expect a fairly coherent story, delivered in a completely language agnostic way and which still made a social commentary about greed, power and love.</p> <p>One of the most impressive moments was when one of the gymnasts was doing tricks in the air hanging from a circle, and at some point she was hanging just by her neck. No comment.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Spinning around in a drum" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Spinning human tops :))) </figcaption></p> </figure> <p>The other very impressive thing for me was the way they could choreograph even “failures” really well: the amount of times some of the acrobats fell, stumbled, hit each other or broke something was impressive, yet they continued without blinking, so it must have been planned. And they didn’t show any signs of pain, even though there were fairly loud thumps accompanying the falls.</p> <p>So, I shall definitely go to see other circuses too! But in two weeks, I shall go to some museums.</p> Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:09:00 GMT,2017-12-03:/2017/12/03/show-ing-off Blade Runner 2049 <p><img alt="Blade Runner 2049 poster" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>The original Blade Runner, which came out in 1982, is an iconic movie. It poses difficult questions, has great monologues about the human condition, and had just enough open questions left to have fans debating pretty much until now. Somehow, Hollywood decided to make a sequel to it 35 years later, but unfortunately it has been a box office flop so far :( Bad audiences, bad! That's why we can't have good movies, only endless Transformers movies :(</p> <p><em>I will continue with spoilers</em></p> <p>The original movie introduces the concept of Replicants, which are pretty much artificial human beings, genetically enhanced to be much stronger and more resistant than normal people. They are indistinguishable from humans, except for the Voigt-Kampff test, which measures emotional reactions to different scenarios. Because they don’t have memories from growing up, the replicants tend to be more insensitive and rational than humans. This changes when Tyrell Corporation, which makes them, realizes that if they implant fake memories, they can make the replicants be more stable, so even more useful. In exchange, they limit their lifespans to around 8 years.</p> <p>Replicants who rebel and want to escape are hunted down by so called “Blade Runners”. Deckard is such a blade runner and he is tasked to catch several military models. The ending of Blade Runner poses the question that maybe Deckard, who was always presented as human, might be a replicant, because another person knows his dreams (so they are probably implanted).</p> <p>Blade Runner 2049 happens 30 years later. There are newer replicant models, which are supposed to be perfectly obedient, unlike previous models which sometimes rebelled. Officer K, is one of these newer replicants, and he is tasked with hunting down the remaining old models.</p> <p>The big twist in Blade Runner 2049 is that it asks the question whether Officer K might actually be a human. He finds out that 30 years ago, a replicant woman had a baby. Normally that’s impossible, because they are not fertile, but somehow it happened and K is led to believe that he might be that child.</p> <p>Initially K obeys his commanding officer. At some point when he voices disagreement with orders from her, when asked if he will disobey, he responds “I wasn’t aware that was an option”. But later on in the movie, he starts pushing the boundaries of this. First, when asked to tell a “fake” memory from childhood, he omits a little detail from it. Later on, he says he dealt with a problem (he had to find the replicant child and kill it), when in reality he just came to the realization that he might be the mythical human replicant. Did he lie? Did he disobey? The movie never answers this question. His boss is satisfied with K’s answer and leaves it at that.</p> <p>This then leads to an even bigger problem, when we find out that the baby was actually a girl, so there’s no way K was that baby. If he’s definitely part of these obedient replicants, how can he still rise up against his programming?</p> <p>Another dilemma that comes up in the movie is with Artificial Intelligence and holograms. In the Blade Runner world, by 2049, you can buy off-the-shelf holograms that can perfectly simulate a human being, except you can’t touch them. But they can talk, they can empathize, they can cheer you up, they can do many other things. These holograms are normally connected to the cloud and are available only in your apartment, where you have some fancy projectors. But there are special “emitters”, which can enable you to carry them around.</p> <p>K has such a hologram, called Joi and she often accompanies him on his missions, via the emitter he bought for her. She is very affectionate for him, to the point of giving him a human name, Joe, and encouraging him to dream big. But at some point, when she realizes her cloud connection might put K in danger, because it means others can see what she knows, she asks him to destroy the cloud backups and let her live just on the emitter, even if that means she could easily be destroyed. Eventually, she is destroyed, but she does manage to tell K that she loves him, just before she vanishes. The question is how much of this was real and how much of it was just her programming, that drove her to tell K what he wanted to hear. He bought her to keep him company, because he felt lonely, so that’s what she gave him. The tagline for the line of holograms is "Everything you want to see. Everything you want to hear.” Given that she changed K, she gave him a reason to press on, does it matter if her feelings were real or not, considering that in the end she influenced him?</p> <p>Both of these issues that I mentioned are something that humans struggle with. Are we just cellular automatons, acting on our neural impulses, with no control over it? Or do we have free will and can we make meaningful choices in our lives? Often times we do things that we don’t want to do. And we don’t do things that we want to do. Even the apostle Paul wrote about this experience in <a href=";version=ESV">Romans 7</a>. Christianity offers a unique solution to that: Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. The movie doesn’t have an answer, only questions.</p> <p>Besides the philosophical aspects, I enjoyed the visuals of the movie as well. The movie is fairly dark, both content wise and screen brightness wise, but they play really well with shadows. So many scenes contain complex shadow dances across the screen. The soundtrack of the movie is also really good. It manages to stay close to the original. The actors do a great job. I mean, Harrison Ford (d’ooh) and Ryan Gosling.</p> <p>Overall grade: 10. The only problem is that it’s long. But it’s a good movie, so more is better :D</p> Thu, 09 Nov 2017 23:48:00 GMT,2017-11-10:/2017/11/10/blade-runner-2049 Blogs I follow - part 1 <p>I'm still one of those rare weirdos who use RSS feeds (with Feedly) and over the years I have started following many people and reading many blogs. Unfortunately, many of them have stopped posting, but there are still some people who regularly post really interesting stuff. I am impressed by how some of them can sustain posting daily, even if only a short snippet, others post 2-3 times a week some interesting observations in a wide range of fields, and others keep posting coding optimizations even though they are tenured professors, but they are not afraid to get their hands dirty.</p> <p>I hope I will soon be able to post more often and to post stuff that is more interesting and have a wider audience again. In the mean time, I'll start sharing with you some of the blogs I'm following, with a short description:</p> <dl> <dt><a href="">John D. Cook</a></dt> <dd>This guy is a statistician by training, who does consulting work and he posts on all kinds of stuff, from numerical computation to solving real business needs. One of my favorite posts from him is <a href="">Random is as random does</a>, which I find is a useful reminder whenever you read an article about something that is modeled probabilistically, that just because that model fits, it doesn't mean that the model is the underlying reality. I stumbled upon John on <a href="">StumbleUpon</a> (wow, I feel old now).</dd> <dt><a href="">FastML</a></dt> <dd>This a machine learning blog ran by several people under one pseudonym. They have a funny writing style, like to criticize many novelty papers, but most importantly, they give lots of useful code that can be directly used, such as tricks on how to encode capital/lower letters <a href="">for RNNs</a>. Really cool stuff.</dd> <dt><a href="">Classic Programmer Paintings</a></dt> <dd>Not really a blog (well, it's a Tumblr blog), but I include it for the mandatory laughs. Classical paintings have never been so much fun. <a href="">Some</a> <a href="">favorites</a> <a href="">here</a>.</dd> </dl> Sat, 28 Oct 2017 22:38:00 GMT,2017-10-28:/2017/10/28/blogs-i-follow-part-1 Around Europe with my wifey <figure> <p><img alt="Singing lion" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>This reminds me of the <a href="">singing lion</a></figcaption></p> </figure> <p>My wife has never been outside of Romania before this year, so I thought I would use this summer to fix that by traveling around as much as possible. </p> <figure> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen class="youtube"></iframe> <figcaption>Dancing interactive fountain</figcaption> </figure> <p>Right after our wedding, we went for a short, one week, roadtrip honeymoon around three capitals: Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava. Bam, three countries right there.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Olympic rings in hungarian colors" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Olympic rings in Budapest</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>We stayed only one night in Budapest and we left Romania late, because I had to update my Romanian bank account (which I hadn't used in the last three years) and because my wife had to apply for a new ID card.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The dog metro " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Birdhouse " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/fun/P1160645.JPG", "title": "The dog metro\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/fun/thumbs/P1160645.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/fun/P1160656.JPG", "title": "Birdhouse\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/fun/thumbs/P1160656.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>There were two memorials, showing very opposite things, fairly close to each other. I was surprised to see one of them vilifying nazism, but the other one glorifying communism.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="A memorial for victims of the german occupation. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="A memorial for glorifying soviet heroes. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/memorials/P1160651.JPG", "title": "A memorial for victims of the german occupation.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/memorials/thumbs/P1160651.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/memorials/P1160647.JPG", "title": "A memorial for glorifying soviet heroes.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/budapest/memorials/thumbs/P1160647.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>Next stop: Vienna. Here we spent a bit more time so we could actually enjoy the city. We went up the Danube tower, only to have super strong winds greet us there. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The Danube tower from a distance. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Cool statue. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The Danube tower from inside. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/P1160673.JPG", "title": "The Danube tower from a distance.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/thumbs/P1160673.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/P1160667.JPG", "title": "Cool statue.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/thumbs/P1160667.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/P1160674.JPG", "title": "The Danube tower from inside.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/thumbs/P1160674.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/P1160676.JPG", "title": "And the Danube tower from the top.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/thumbs/P1160676.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/P1160682.JPG", "title": "Alas, it was closed when we were there :(\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/thumbs/P1160682.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/P1160685.JPG", "title": "What is this? A bench? A memorial? An art object? All of the above?\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/tower/thumbs/P1160685.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>We went to an old musical instruments concert in the oldest church in Vienna. I had never even heard of the harpsichord before. Apparently it's the precursor to the piano. The guy was speaking in German. It was nice to be able to put my German knowledge to use and actually understand what was being said around me.</p> <p><img alt="Harpsichord" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>And we went to the Schönbrunn palace and learned about the fairly sad life of the monarchs from there. The highly idolized Princess Sisi was actually fairly unhappy in her marriage and did her best to avoid her husband. The Monarch woke up at 5AM to do his imperial duties. I admire his dedication, but they said he wasn't good at it, so it didn't help too much. We also tried the famous Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesauce, but to be honest, I've had better at any random bakery. The gardens were beautiful though.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Horse carriage in front of Schonbrunn " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Front view of the palace " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Garden tunnels " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/P1160699.JPG", "title": "Horse carriage in front of Schonbrunn\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/thumbs/P1160699.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/P1160700.JPG", "title": "Front view of the palace\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/thumbs/P1160700.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/P1160701.JPG", "title": "Garden tunnels\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/thumbs/P1160701.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/P1160704.JPG", "title": "The gardens of Schonbrunn\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/schonbrun/thumbs/P1160704.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>On our last day there, the only one that was sunny, we went to the Prater, an amusement park. There we, you know, amused ourselves by doing fun rides such as Dizzy Mouse (they weren't kidding about the dizzy part), Water Ride and only me, Volare, where you lay flat on your belly and go flying like crazy. The last one was hang-on-to-your-pants-and-hope-you-have-nothing-in-them. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Us on the water ride! " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The dizzy mouse. Imagine going at 50-60km/h in those turns! " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The insane &lt;a href=" http: en attractions details a volare-the-flying-coaster "&gt;volare&lt; a&gt;. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/prater/IMG_20170728_114859.jpg", "title": "Us on the water ride!\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/prater/thumbs/IMG_20170728_114859.jpg", "w": 2448, "h": 3264}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/prater/P1160718.JPG", "title": "The dizzy mouse. Imagine going at 50-60km/h in those turns!\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/prater/thumbs/P1160718.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/prater/P1160720.JPG", "title": "The insane <a href=\"\">Volare</a>.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/vienna/prater/thumbs/P1160720.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>Our last stop on our honeymoon was in Bratislava. We stayed in a really fancy hotel, so we spent quite a lot of time inside, for example at the spa :D</p> <p><img alt="Dinosaur grabbing my wife" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>But we also went to visit the Bratislava zoo, with it's fake dinosaurs. And we had langos, because that's what I craved at 10 PM in Bratislava. Langos. :D</p> <p><img alt="Cat cafe" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>The old city was surprisingly active and full of life even late at night and it showed no signs of slowing down. </p> <p>After two or three weeks, the Zurich Street Parade was going on, which is a massive techno parade with about 1 million drunk people invading, so we decided to do a weekend break to London, where Roda's brother lives. </p> <p><img alt="Us drinking bubble tea" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>First stop, Indian food. Second stop, bubble tea. My wife likes the first one, but unfortunately not the second one :(</p> <p><img alt="Karting with my wife" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>On the second day, we went karting. Given how much she loved racing on the highway before, I thought she might enjoy being able to put pedal to metal in a controlled environment. She mostly did :D</p> <p><img alt="The view from the Shard" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>We also visited the Shard, London's highest building. Besides the view, which is pretty much the same as from every other highriser in every other major city of the world, there are several VR experiments you can try out, such as flying or walking across a plank.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The prime Meridian " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Yury Gagarin " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Ship in a bottle. A really big ship. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/greenwhich/IMG_20170813_141546.jpg", "title": "The prime Meridian\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/greenwhich/thumbs/IMG_20170813_141546.jpg", "w": 3036, "h": 4048}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/greenwhich/IMG_20170813_162836.jpg", "title": "Yury Gagarin\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/greenwhich/thumbs/IMG_20170813_162836.jpg", "w": 3036, "h": 4048}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/greenwhich/IMG_20170813_170431.jpg", "title": "Ship in a bottle. A really big ship.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/greenwhich/thumbs/IMG_20170813_170431.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}]</script> </div> <p>On Sunday, we ended up having a lazy day in Greenwich park. We went to the Prime Meridian, learned about how to calculate latitude and longitude and just spent time chillin' on the grass. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Old cathedral " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="London at dusk " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/misc/IMG_20170812_204512.jpg", "title": "Old cathedral\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/misc/thumbs/IMG_20170812_204512.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/misc/IMG_20170812_210930.jpg", "title": "London at dusk\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/london/misc/thumbs/IMG_20170812_210930.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}]</script> </div> <p>We flew from London City airport, which is a very interesting airport, because it announces gates only half an hour before departure, so there's really no point in getting there early. I wish more airports did that. </p> <p><img alt="Bergen Airport" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>The last pitstop for the summer was Norway, which I found to be among the most beautiful places I've ever been to. Until it started raining cats and dogs. Then it lost some of its appeal. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Abstract horse. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Abstract ribs? " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/statues/IMG_20170826_212457.jpg", "title": "Abstract horse.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/statues/thumbs/IMG_20170826_212457.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/statues/IMG_20170826_213050-EFFECTS.jpg", "title": "Abstract ribs?\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/statues/thumbs/IMG_20170826_213050-EFFECTS.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}]</script> </div> <p>Bergen has rain 260 days a year, so when we arrived there, the receptionist told us that we are lucky because that weekend would be really nice and sunny. And it was!</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Quiet mountain stream. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Norwegian pure breed. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Rosendal. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/P1160806.JPG", "title": "Quiet mountain stream.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/thumbs/P1160806.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/P1160813.JPG", "title": "Norwegian pure breed.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/thumbs/P1160813.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/P1160814.JPG", "title": "Rosendal.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/thumbs/P1160814.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/P1160818.JPG", "title": "Church from 12th century.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/thumbs/P1160818.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/IMG_20170827_162138.jpg", "title": "Workers unite.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/rosendal/thumbs/IMG_20170827_162138.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}]</script> </div> <p>On Sunday we went on the cruise on the Hardangersfjord (with such a fierce name, you almost expect viking raid ships to show up at any moment) to Rosendhal, where we had an amazing salmon lunch. Seriously, they had two kinds of salmon, cooked and smoked, and both of them were mind-blowingly good. I'm so glad my wife doesn't eat much and I can always <del>steal</del> finish some of the good stuff from her plate!</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="" src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="" src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="" src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/P1160744.JPG", "title": "", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/thumbs/P1160744.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/P1160751.JPG", "title": "", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/thumbs/P1160751.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/P1160769.JPG", "title": "", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/thumbs/P1160769.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/P1160772.JPG", "title": "", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/cruise/thumbs/P1160772.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>The landscape from the fjord cruise was amazing. It was a sunny day, not a cloud in sight. Really amazing. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Ugly fish. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Deadly fish. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Deadlier fish (piranhas). " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/IMG_20170828_152802.jpg", "title": "Ugly fish.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/thumbs/IMG_20170828_152802.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/IMG_20170828_155714.jpg", "title": "Deadly fish. \n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/thumbs/IMG_20170828_155714.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/IMG_20170828_155204.jpg", "title": "Deadlier fish (piranhas).\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/thumbs/IMG_20170828_155204.jpg", "w": 4048, "h": 3036}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/P1160826.JPG", "title": "Gentoo penguins.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/thumbs/P1160826.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/P1160837.JPG", "title": "Everyday I'm shufflin', shufflin'.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/thumbs/P1160837.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/P1160850.JPG", "title": "Playing volleyball\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/thumbs/P1160850.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/P1160858.JPG", "title": "Backflippin'\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/10/eurotrip/bergen/aquarium/thumbs/P1160858.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>The next day... a storm is coming. We just walked around a bit in Bergen and we went to the aquarium there, but it still was enough to get us soaking wet.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="View of Bergen from above" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>View of Bergen from above</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>On the last day, it was still cloudy, but the rain kept delaying. So we walked up the Floyen. That's one of the steepest furniculars in the world. And we were wondering how on earth do people live on those super steep streets. </p> <figure> <p><img alt="Quiet pond" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Quiet, undisturbed, reflective</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>The view from the Floyen is nice, but it's sooo crowded. But we managed to find a small pond, a bit off the hiking trails, where nobody else was. And there was only silence. Complete silence. We sat there for 10 minutes, just enjoying the beautiful nature that God created.</p> <p>And that, folks, was our summer Eurotour! I can't wait for part 2. Too bad my wife has to study a lot :|</p> Sat, 07 Oct 2017 00:09:00 GMT,2017-10-07:/2017/10/07/around-europe-with-my-wifey Drei Jahre in der Schweiz <p><img alt="Collage of my third year in Switzerland" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Three years ago today I started my job at Google. I had moved to Switzerland two days before, with two suitcases and a backpack. Then followed a lot of adventure.</p> <p>The third year was different. I started learning Swiss German, so that I can better integrate and it payed off: I am no longer completely clueless as to what Swiss people speak around, I am only mostly clueless. </p> <p>I also got married to the most beautiful, loving and kind girl in the world, Roda, who happens to be an amazing cook as well!</p> <p>I also just did my 100th flight two days ago. I have flown more than 150000 kilometres in the last three years, visiting 16 countries. </p> <p>I've made deeper friendships, both here in Switzerland and abroad. I enjoyed exploring Israel with some of them, I've learned how to play the piano from others, while others have been the encouraging voice to strengthen me in my walk with the Lord. </p> <p>Looking back, I think it was a year where I was tested to see if I did learn anything the previous year. Some situations resembled what happened a year before that, sometimes eerily so. Sometimes, I failed. Other times, I believe I came out better or faster, through the grace of God. </p> <p>I step into the next year, now walking with a companion for life by my side, but still aiming to run the race, to fight the good fight and to love and serve my Lord with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.</p> Fri, 01 Sep 2017 20:54:00 GMT,2017-09-01:/2017/09/01/drei-jahre-in-der-schweiz How to organize a wedding - in 20 easy steps <p><img alt="Roda and Roland wedding" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>So you decided to get married. You need a wedding for that. It's a lot of work. Given that I just got married two weeks ago, I'll try to jot down some step-by-step instructions (with particulars about Romanian bureaucracy).</p> <ol> <li>Find a partner who is willing to say "Yes". Trivial exercise, left as homework for the reader.</li> <li>Decide on the style of wedding. Do you want a fancy, shiny, super modern wedding in the middle of the city? Do you want something in nature, far from civilization? Do you want a smaller, cozier wedding? Do you want to invite the all your extended family and all your friends? What are the budget constraints? I recommend using a spreadsheet to track the todos, with links to other documents which contain details about choices and decisions. And you can color code that spreadsheet with due dates. Like a project manager :D </li> <li>With those decisions in mind, start looking for a venue. Most often, that takes a long time, so you have to do this up to a year in advance. We managed to find a venue only 4 months ahead, because we went somewhere in the mountains. </li> <li>Find a photographer. Start stalking photographers' websites and Facebook pages to find out what their style is like. Narrow it down to a short list of 5, talk to them, find out their availabilities and price range and proceed. I recommend talking in person to the photographer, because you'll spend most of the time on your wedding day with them, so you better click and get along well.</li> <li>Get catering. We had it from the venue where we had the wedding, so they organized everything. That is by far the easiest, because it's one less vendor to deal with. But sometimes you have to order it from a 3rd party. </li> <li>(Optional) Get a music band. We didn't have one. </li> <li>Start making guest lists. Depending on where you are from, you should give the invites in advance, or it might not matter, because you'll still have lots of people making last minute RSVP changes. I recommend using a spreadsheet for tracking this. You can mark there whether the invitation was given, whether an answer was received, how many adults and kids, keep counts to see how it's going, drill down based on various attributes and even make the seat planning.</li> <li>Design invites, get them printed out and sent them to invitees. Warning, sometimes emails to vendors get lost and they don't answer for more than week. Maybe they are busy, maybe they are shoddy, maybe you should look for another one.</li> <li>Bride: Get wedding dress. Bonus: make it a surprise for him.</li> <li>Get wedding rings. Decisions, decisions, decisions. What metal? What style? With stones? </li> <li>Order flowers. I know this happened, but I mostly stayed out of it. It also involved searching various vendors and looking at lots of stuff on Pinterest.</li> <li>Groom: get a suit. It's your wedding, so do try to get a made-to-measure one. Just don't get a linen one. Your parents will complain that it's too wrinkly and make you get another one. </li> <li>Make guest seating plan. Leave some slack in it for last minute changes, because in Romania, you will have people changing their mind on the last day! Or the last minute!</li> <li>Register at the townhall for the civil ceremony. Warning: in Romania this has to be done at least 10 days before the wedding. And at most 14 days before the wedding, because you need to get a medical certificate that is valid for only 14 days. And you need a blood test for that medical certificate. So be prepared for several trips to do this. </li> <li>Try your best not to be late for your own civil ceremony. </li> <li>Say yes.</li> <li>Party hard.</li> <li>Smile so much for pictures your face muscles start to hurt. </li> <li>Wait for all the guests to leave.</li> <li>Go to the hotel you booked for the wedding night - and find out there is a night wedding going on at that venue. Enjoy the super loud music until 6 AM. </li> </ol> <p>Congratulations, you got married!</p> Sat, 05 Aug 2017 16:15:00 GMT,2017-08-05:/2017/08/05/how-to-organize-a-wedding-in-20-easy-steps Evaluating goals - 2017 edition <p>Another half a year has passed, so it's time to review my goals from <a href="">January</a>.</p> <p>Around March something came up, so I dropped some goals or reduced their intensity. That something is called setting a <a href="">wedding date for July</a>, so I'll excuse myself for being busy with that. </p> <p>Scoring will continue by the same metric: 1 for goals fully achieved, 0 for complete failures. </p> <dl> <dt>Get to 82 kg by June</dt> <dd>I am currently 83 kg. I was 90 kg in January when I posted this, so this is a 0.875 score. Not bad. We'll see how my suit fits on Saturday :D</dd> <dt>Exercise three times a week</dt> <dd>I exercised 63 times in the first half of the year. Then I pulled a muscle and it had me unable to move. It's still a score of 0.777.</dd> <dt>Read 24 books in 2017/read 30 minutes every day</dt> <dd>So... I read 10 books in half a year, when I should be at 12 already. Almost there, so it's 0.833. But the 30 minutes reading per day... that's a big no.</dd> <dt>Write 3 blog posts per month</dt> <dd>I wrote 13 posts so far (without this one), while I should be at 18. Score: 0.722</dd> <dt>Write into my journal twice a week</dt> <dd>I managed to keep this habit almost perfectly until last week. Score: 0.95</dd> <dt>Spend 1 hour per week studying German on my own</dt> <dd>This goal got dropped first: I stopped doing it around April. I clocked in 8.3 hours of German until then. Score: 0.307</dd> <dt>Do 4 20 minute Pomodoros every day</dt> <dd>I did around 550 Pomodoros this year, which comes down to 3.79 per working day. Score: 0.94. I actually felt more productive.</dd> <dt>Read 3 chapters from the Bible every day</dt> <dd>I did this pretty good until last week. Score: 0.95</dd> <dt>Memorize 1 Bible verse every week:</dt> <dd>Well... third time's the charm. It'll work next time, I'm sure! Score: 0</dd> </dl> <p>Average score: 0.706. So I managed to improve just a tiny bit on my score from last year \:D/ But it's interesting that now I don't have any perfect score, but I have fewer failures too. Maybe I'm learning how to set proper goals for myself? </p> <p>But, like last year, I'll take a break now and I'll focus on making my soon-to-be <a href="">wife happy</a>!</p> Mon, 17 Jul 2017 22:55:00 GMT,2017-07-17:/2017/07/17/evaluating-goals-2017-edition I believe I can fly! <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen class="youtube"></iframe> <p>About a month ago I started believing I can fly, so I proved it by going for a gliding session. A glider is a lightweight plane, which doesn't have an engine, so it's pulled by another plane until it takes off. After that, you glide through the air, like an eagle, looking for thermals which lift you up. Unfortunately, it was a too nice day, with no clouds, so we didn't find any good thermals, so my flight was quite short. But it was still nice to see Uetliberg from above :D And I piloted the plane for about 5 minutes :D</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen class="youtube"></iframe> <p>Two weeks ago I had the pleasure to go do a paragliding basic lesson \:D/ Where you get to fly around for a little while. It was super tiring. All the morning we were just running around, to learn how to raise the paraglider up correctly and only in the afternoon did we actually get to fly. But it was soooo awesome!!!!</p> <p>Of course, I won't rob you of the outtakes (I'm fine mom, I survived): </p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen class="youtube"></iframe> Thu, 29 Jun 2017 22:25:00 GMT,2017-06-29:/2017/06/29/i-believe-i-can-fly The Piano Guys <figure> <p><img alt="Playing I want you Bach" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Playing <a href="">I want you Bach</a></figcaption></p> </figure> <p>Last Friday The Piano Guys were in Zürich. I found out about it from an ad on Facebook. It's probably the second time in my life where an advertisement there is actually useful and relevant for me.</p> <p>They started by playing <a href="">Batman Evolution</a>, which goes through most of the Batman movies soundtracks and weaves them together.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Jon playing with his head under the piano" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Jon fooling around, by playing with his head under the piano</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>They explained how they like to combine their love for old classical music with modern songs that are well known by young people. For example, they take every kid's favourite song: <a href="">Let It Go!</a> and combine it with Vivaldi's Winter.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Jon playing with his feet" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>More of Jon fooling around, by playing with his feet</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>The duo likes to make fun of each other. Jon constantly makes fun of Steven, the cellist, for being part of a band called "The PIANO Guys", while Steven likes to show off his sweet cello skills and how he can do cooler tricks then Jon.</p> <p><img alt="Steven playing the chello" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Steven has 26 cellos in his collection, which of course all sound very different to him. He brought only three on this tour: the Italian one, called Marcello (pronounced with an Italian accent), the French one, made out of carbon fiber, called.... Carbon Fibre, and the Chinese one, called Bruce Lee.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Steven being bored" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Steven is really bored by <a href="">Pachelbel's Canon in D</a>, so he's showing off</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>Steven learned some German in school, so he was constantly weaving some German words into his address to the audience. Jon probably learned a few basic sentences on the way over, just not to be inferior to Steven in any way.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Jon dancing" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>When Steven starts improvising on the Canon in D, Jon starts dancing on the stage, much to Steven's embarrassment</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>They told how the whole thing started, when a piano shop owner wanted to make some fancy ads basically for his pianos, so he asked Jon to play them on the street. Jon knew Steven from before, knew how creative he was with the cello and thought he could help them go viral. Along came Al, a neighbor of Steven, who helped them write songs and edit them. And it did go viral. Unfortunately, the shop had to close. </p> <figure> <p><img alt="Al, their songwriter" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Al, their music producer, sometimes joins them on stage to sing with them</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>When they were singing the <a href="">Fight Song / Amazing Grace</a> combination, they actually brought on stage four bagpipers to accompany them!</p> <p><img alt="Four bagpipers accompanying the Piano Guys" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>They ended the concert with all four of them (Jon, Steven, Al and Paul, their videographer) abusing the piano at the same time, some of them by hitting it.</p> <p><img alt="The four of them abusing the piano" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>I enjoyed the concert. It was especially pleasant because two times they gave credit to where it's due: to God. They acknowledged that they are what they are and they can do what they do because of what He has given them. It was a nice moment :)</p> Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:08:00 GMT,2017-06-16:/2017/06/16/the-piano-guys Istanbul, land of turbans, spice and carpets <p><img alt="Entrance to small market" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>This is the land of cheap layovers on the way to Romania. Thanks to the invisible hand of the market, tickets to the airports that are close to where my fiancee lives were 50% cheaper when flying through Istanbul, with an overnight layover, than more direct flights. It was still cheaper when buying two nights in a hotel. So through Istanbul it was. I figured it might be my last trip alone, so it should be fun.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="One of the many water fountains in the city" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>One of the many water fountains in the city</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>And it was. Istanbul is a very colorful and diverse city. You see all kinds of people getting along. And they have something us in the "west" don't have: time. Everywhere you see people hanging out together. In front of shops, on the street, people stop and talk with each other. They seem to have a lot more personal interactions. But they smoke a lot more :(</p> <p>Security is quite strict, there being lots of armed police and military on the streets. Most touristy sights have security checks at the entrance, but I didn't have any problems getting through them. That might have been because even though it beeps, they let you go through, without stopping you. I was a bit puzzled by what exactly are they trying to achieve.</p> <figure> <p><img alt="Sultan Ahmet's Tomb" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>The tomb of Sultan Ahmet</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>But it's also clearly not the well organized, full of signs, easy to get around "West". First hint of this was getting from the airport to the hotel. On my way to Romania, I was staying at the airport hotel. I figured, it's the airport hotel, so it's in the airport building, there being plenty of signs to lead you to it. Well, I was wrong. There were 0 signs for it as I came out of customs. After searching far and wide, I found a sign saying "TAV airport hotel shuttle". Aha, that must be it. I go in the direction pointed by the sign and I see shuttles for three other hotels, but none for my hotel. I walk some more, eventually ask another shuttle driver, who asks someone else, who happens to walk in that general direction and points me there. It was a 10 minute walk, because you couldn't get there through the airport building, even though it was part of the same complex. At least I got a free upgrade for my room :D</p> <figure> <p><video src="/static/videos/fountain.mp4" autoplay loop> </video> <figcaption>Fountain in Sultan Ahmet archelogical park</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>Then I take a "Taksi" to the old part of the town. Turn signaling seemed to be almost entirely optional. We went through what looked like a round-about, but I'm pretty sure I saw cars going perpendicular to each other, completely disregarding any kind of lanes. After leaving the nice ring road surrounding the city, by the sea, we get into the small streets in the old part of the town. It didn't seem to matter to the driver that there was a long line of cars ahead of us, every time we stopped, he honked. Also, if someone else honked, he honked as well. The driver had two phones: a smartphone with the Uber-like app I booked him with, and an old dumb phone which seemed to be constantly in a call, even though he wasn't using it most of the time. Eventually traffic ground to a halt, so I got out and walked the rest of the way to the Yerebatan Cistern. It was a bit scary though to cross the streets like the locals do: almost completely disregarding traffic, depending on how fast the cars went. </p> <figure> <p><img alt="Taksim Square" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <video src="/static/videos/walk.mp4" autoplay loop> </video> <figcaption>Walk signs are animated :D</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>These cisterns, also called the Cistern Basilica, are a water reservoir with a capacity of 100.000 tons of water. It's a huge underground cavern, carved sometime in the 6th century. It has xx columns, in Doric and Ionic style. There is this soft music playing the background and it has a really nice impression on you as you walk around. The temperature is well below 20 degrees inside. Close to the entrance, for a small fee you can dress up as a Turkish soldier, pasha or princess and get some photos of you like that (no, I didn't do this :P).</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Right outside the Yerebatan Cisterns " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="More information about them " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Really nice atmosphere " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/P1160387.JPG", "title": "Right outside the Yerebatan Cisterns\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/thumbs/P1160387.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/P1160388.JPG", "title": "More information about them\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/thumbs/P1160388.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/P1160394.JPG", "title": "Really nice atmosphere\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/thumbs/P1160394.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/P1160398.JPG", "title": "The weeping column\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/thumbs/P1160398.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/P1160406.JPG", "title": "The medusa head\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/cistern/thumbs/P1160406.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>On the way there, I passed through a small market place, where lots of people were selling various handmade goods. You could see all kinds of stuff, including people making in front of you wooden decorations, ornate walking canes, the water paintings or carving jewelry. Lots of cool stuff.</p> <p><img alt="Craftsman making jewelry" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>After a late lunch, I ran into some overly friendly and pushy carpet sellers, who invited me to see their shop... which happened to be in a basement. It was a bit scary, but I wanted anyway to buy a carpet for my fiancee, so it worked out fine-ish. The guy knew how to say "How are you?" in Romanian and that Gica Hagi is the best Romanian footballer. Also, when leaving, they complimented my beard (Take that, mom!). </p> <figure> <p><img alt="Kiosk outside the Topkapi Palace" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>Kiosk outside the Topkapi Palace</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>Afterwards I went to see Hagia Sofia (Greek for Holy Wisdom), which was an old Greek Orthodox church, built in 537. It was converted into a mosque in 1453 and now it's a museum. The really interesting part about it is that it still has some of the old paintings of Christian saints, right along side the Islamic imagery. The church was designed by some geometers and you can see that the whole thing is very symmetric: the layout, the patterns in the stones and the decorations on the walls. It looks really great. Unfortunately, it's in restoration, so some parts are not visible for now. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Outside remnants " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Sssssnakessss " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Cat. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160417.JPG", "title": "Outside remnants\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160417.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160419.JPG", "title": "Sssssnakessss\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160419.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160420.JPG", "title": "Cat.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160420.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160422.JPG", "title": "That window looks like an emoji :D\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160422.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160427.JPG", "title": "Patterns on the wall.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160427.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160430.JPG", "title": "Arabic writing.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160430.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160431.JPG", "title": "Drink up.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160431.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160433.JPG", "title": "The Library\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160433.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160435.JPG", "title": "More cats.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160435.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160437.JPG", "title": "Chandelier.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160437.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160438.JPG", "title": "X marks the spot.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160438.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160442.JPG", "title": "The pulpit\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160442.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160445.JPG", "title": "Byzantine mural...\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160445.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160446.JPG", "title": "... surrounded by Muslim symbols\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160446.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160447.JPG", "title": "Mosaics.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160447.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160451.JPG", "title": "", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160451.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160453.JPG", "title": "The ceiling.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160453.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160454.JPG", "title": "Some feathery being.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160454.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160465.JPG", "title": "This door looks like a sarcophagus.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160465.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160467.JPG", "title": "The balconies\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160467.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160470.JPG", "title": "The Empresses' view\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160470.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160478.JPG", "title": "Half-gone saints\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160478.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160487.JPG", "title": "Access denied.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160487.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160492.JPG", "title": "Feathery being again, now with a head.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160492.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 1615}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160500.JPG", "title": "A solar clock, which indicated three different things.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160500.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/P1160501.JPG", "title": "The water fountain.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/hagia/thumbs/P1160501.JPG", "w": 1080, "h": 722}]</script> </div> <p>After the church I crossed the Golden Horn by walking across the Galata Bridge. It separates the old, historical Constantinople from the new, modern Istanbul. The bridge has two levels, one above, for cars, and one for pedestrians below. The lower level is full of restaurants, with the waiters calling you in at every step. </p> <p><img alt="Bridge over the Golden Horn" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>My last stop for the day was the Galata Tower. It was built in 1348, as part of the Genoese colony of Constantinople. It was damaged several times by fire, even though sometimes it was used to spot fires in other parts of the city. Now the insides have been modernized, with elevators and a nice cafe. From the top you have a beautiful panoramic view of the city. And from there you realize that Istanbul is 'yuuuuuuge. In pretty much every direction you look, you can't see its limits. But there is this strong contrast: you have this impressive, majestic old tower and right next to it you have 60 year old apartment buildings that have never seen any maintenance, so there are cracks in the walls and the paint is half gone. From the top of the tower you can enjoy a beautiful sunset and then look down to see how somebody is making a BBQ in their rooftop garden. I wonder how people who live there enjoy that too, knowing that thousands of tourists are analyzing their culinary skills. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The Galata Tower from up close. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="From a distance. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Istanbul to the horizon " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/P1160539.JPG", "title": "The Galata Tower from up close.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/thumbs/P1160539.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/P1160528.JPG", "title": "From a distance.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/thumbs/P1160528.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/P1160547.JPG", "title": "Istanbul to the horizon\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/thumbs/P1160547.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/P1160554.JPG", "title": "Rooftop reading under the tower.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/thumbs/P1160554.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/P1160559.JPG", "title": "The old city\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/tower/thumbs/P1160559.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>When I went back to the hotel, I discovered the sign pointing towards in the airport: it was right at the exit from the metro. Yay. At least the trams and metros in Istanbul were pretty clean and with air conditioning. </p> <p><img alt="One of the many mosques" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>On the way back to Zurich, I stayed at another hotel, which was fancier and cheaper, but a 10 minute ride from the airport. While it was nice, it turned out the Google Maps doesn't quite know the area well, because it wanted to send me walking over a highway to get to a bus stop, or along an nonexistent street. Ah, the fun adventures at 9PM in a foreign city.</p> <p><img alt="Boat on the Golden Horn" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>The first thing I went to see on Monday was the Grand Bazaar, the world's oldest shopping mall and it's said to be the world's most touristy place with 91 million visitors every year. That being said, I wasn't on a shopping spree, so I admired the exotic spice shops, colourful carpet shops and shiny jewelry shops only from a distance.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Entrance to the Grand Bazaar " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Ceiling decorations " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Shops, shops everywhere " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/bazaar/P1160593.JPG", "title": "Entrance to the Grand Bazaar\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/bazaar/thumbs/P1160593.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/bazaar/P1160594.JPG", "title": "Ceiling decorations\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/bazaar/thumbs/P1160594.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/bazaar/P1160595.JPG", "title": "Shops, shops everywhere\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/bazaar/thumbs/P1160595.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>Then I proceeded to the modern part of Istanbul: Taksim Square, where the Monument of the Republic stands, built in 1928 for the 5th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. It's a small area, with quite heavy police presence, because people like to protest here (among other reasons against the demolition of the Taksim Gezi Park), but it has some boutiques selling street food with some amazing ice cream :X.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The monument in the middle of Taksim Square " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The entrance to the market fair in Taksim Square " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/taksim/taksim.jpg", "title": "The monument in the middle of Taksim Square\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/taksim/thumbs/taksim.jpg", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/taksim/P1160617.JPG", "title": "The entrance to the market fair in Taksim Square\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/taksim/thumbs/P1160617.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>Of course, I don't like to visit a city where Google has an office, without visiting the office itself. These are in the Levent quarter, a business district full of skyscrapers. </p> <p><img alt="View from the Google office" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>To end my trip I went down to the sea side and walked a bit along it (and got lost by getting on the wrong bus), looking to the opposite side of the Bosphorus, regretting that I didn't have time to go to the Asian side. Oh well, there's always next time!</p> <p><img alt="Looking across the Bosphorus" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Two more fun facts about Istanbul: they don't seem to have stray dogs, but they have stray cats. Cats everywhere. Hagia Sofia was full of them. Everywhere on the street? Cats, cats, cats. I think it's cat paradise. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="For some reason, Kim Jong Un seems to be popular. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Baseball hat-like roof overhang " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="I guess the owner ran out of ideas " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/P1160536.JPG", "title": "For some reason, Kim Jong Un seems to be popular.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/thumbs/P1160536.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/P1160504.JPG", "title": "Baseball hat-like roof overhang\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/thumbs/P1160504.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/P1160506.JPG", "title": "I guess the owner ran out of ideas\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/thumbs/P1160506.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/P1160608.JPG", "title": "They called to say \"Thanks for all the fish\"\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/thumbs/P1160608.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/P1160625.JPG", "title": "The child seems quite angry :-S\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/06/istanbul/misc/thumbs/P1160625.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>Also, the food is amazing. Both places where I sat down to eat had really good stuff. Unfortunately, I'm on diet, so I couldn't eat more :(</p> <p>I enjoyed my time in Istanbul, but I didn't get to hear <a href="">Mr. Toot</a> playing.</p> Wed, 14 Jun 2017 22:36:00 GMT,2017-06-14:/2017/06/14/istanbul-land-of-turbans-spice-and-carpets Happy Mother's Day! <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen class="youtube"></iframe> <p>Happy Mother's Day to my dear mom! I love you! Kisses from New York!</p> Sat, 06 May 2017 23:54:00 GMT,2017-05-07:/2017/05/07/happy-mother-s-day Look what I found on Uetliberg <p><img alt="Hands with rings" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Scarcely had I hiked up Uetliberg when I found the one my heart loves. I held her tightly and I put a ring on her finger! (to paraphrase Song of Solomon 3:4)</p> Sun, 23 Apr 2017 21:56:00 GMT,2017-04-23:/2017/04/23/look-what-i-found-on-uetliberg Indexing IM logs with Elasticsearch <p>Remember <a href="">my old project</a> for processing instant messaging logs? Probably, because I wrote about it <a href="">five years ago</a>. Well, the project is only mostly dead, every once in a while I still occasionally work on it. </p> <p>I mostly use it as an excuse to learn technologies that are used outside of the Google bubble. One thing that really impressed me with how well it works and how easy it is to set up was <a href="">Elasticsearch</a>. Elasticsearch is a search engine. You give it your documents and it indexes them and enables you to query them fast. There are other projects that do this for you, but ES can do scaling to multiple machines out of the box, has sane defaults for how to process text and it has many addons. One of the amazing addons, built by the same company, is Kibana, a dashboard and reporting tool, perfectly integrated with Elasticsearch.</p> <p>Let's see how we can get our data into Elasticsearch and how we can learn something from it. We're going to use the Python bindings and I assume that you have all the official packages installed. I'm going to assume that getting the data is a solved problem and we basically have an iterator that produces dictionaries of the following form:</p> <div class="highlight"><pre>{&#39;datetime&#39;: &#39;2017-03-30T23:12&#39;, &#39;message&#39;: &#39;Hello there&#39;, &#39;contact&#39;: &#39;Friend&#39;, &#39;sender&#39;: &#39;Me&#39;} </pre></div> <p>To add the data into Elasticsearch, we use the following super short snippet:</p> <div class="highlight"><pre><span class="kn">from</span> <span class="nn">elasticsearch</span> <span class="kn">import</span> <span class="n">Elasticsearch</span> <span class="kn">from</span> <span class="nn">elasticsearch.helpers</span> <span class="kn">import</span> <span class="n">bulk</span> <span class="n">es</span> <span class="o">=</span> <span class="n">Elasticsearch</span><span class="p">()</span> <span class="c"># Create the connection to the Elasticsearch cluster</span> <span class="n">es</span> <span class="o">=</span> <span class="n">Elasticsearch</span><span class="p">([</span><span class="s">&#39;http://elastic:changeme@localhost:9200/&#39;</span><span class="p">])</span> <span class="c"># Set a certain property for the message field.</span> <span class="n">es</span><span class="o">.</span><span class="n">indices</span><span class="o">.</span><span class="n">create</span><span class="p">(</span><span class="s">&#39;chat&#39;</span><span class="p">,</span> <span class="p">{</span><span class="s">&quot;mappings&quot;</span> <span class="p">:</span> <span class="p">{</span> <span class="s">&quot;message&quot;</span> <span class="p">:</span> <span class="p">{</span> <span class="s">&quot;properties&quot;</span> <span class="p">:</span> <span class="p">{</span> <span class="s">&quot;message&quot;</span> <span class="p">:</span> <span class="p">{</span> <span class="s">&quot;type&quot;</span> <span class="p">:</span> <span class="s">&quot;text&quot;</span><span class="p">,</span> <span class="s">&quot;fielddata&quot;</span><span class="p">:</span> <span class="bp">True</span> <span class="p">}</span> <span class="p">}</span> <span class="p">}</span> <span class="p">}</span> <span class="p">})</span> <span class="c"># Generator that creates dictionaries of our messages and tells ES were to index</span> <span class="c"># them</span> <span class="k">def</span> <span class="nf">lines</span><span class="p">():</span> <span class="k">for</span> <span class="n">row</span> <span class="ow">in</span> <span class="n">rows</span><span class="p">:</span> <span class="n">d</span> <span class="o">=</span> <span class="p">{</span><span class="n">k</span><span class="p">:</span> <span class="n">row</span><span class="p">[</span><span class="n">k</span><span class="p">]</span> <span class="k">for</span> <span class="n">k</span> <span class="ow">in</span> <span class="n">row</span><span class="o">.</span><span class="n">keys</span><span class="p">()}</span> <span class="n">d</span><span class="p">[</span><span class="s">&#39;_op_type&#39;</span><span class="p">]</span> <span class="o">=</span> <span class="s">&#39;index&#39;</span> <span class="n">d</span><span class="p">[</span><span class="s">&#39;_index&#39;</span><span class="p">]</span><span class="o">=</span> <span class="s">&#39;chat&#39;</span> <span class="n">d</span><span class="p">[</span><span class="s">&#39;_type&#39;</span><span class="p">]</span><span class="o">=</span> <span class="s">&#39;message&#39;</span> <span class="k">yield</span> <span class="n">d</span> <span class="c"># Imports into Elasticsearch in bulk (once every 5000 messages)</span> <span class="n">bulk</span><span class="p">(</span><span class="n">es</span><span class="p">,</span><span class="n">lines</span><span class="p">())</span> </pre></div> <p>And that's about it. Normally, Elasticsearch can create indexes automatically when you first import something, but in our case, it has a wrong default for the message field, so we have to manually specify that it should have the <a href="">fielddata</a> setting true.</p> <p>Now let's see what this gives us. We are going to start Kibana, which is the dashboard creating tool for Elasticsearch. There we can explore our dataset and filter by everything:</p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Kibana UI" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>This shows you some of my discussions with Cătălin. At the top you can see the number of messages we've had over the years. It's a partial lie: in the second half of 2015 we talked over Wire and I didn't save my discussions from there and since the second half of 2016 we've been talking on Telegram and I haven't written the import tool for that. </p> <p>Below that you can see some of the actual messages, with all the metadata. It's quite nice to explore your data and to reminisce over old conversations.</p> <p>Then we can switch to the Visualize tab and create some pretty graphs:</p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Top contacts" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>This is a graph of the top 20 people I have talked with. Cătălin leads the pack, because I have been talking to him for about 9 years and then there are various friends. One thing that was surprising to me was how some people with whom I haven't talked in 3-4 years are still there, meaning that I must've talked to them a loooot before that. </p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Amount of chats over the year" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>Another easy graph to make is to plot how much I've talked to my top 20 contacts over the years. As you can see, there is a lot of variation. It's hard to tell much just by eyeballing the data, but it seems that most of the time there are burst of activity with a friend and then we talk much less for a while. Maybe I should use it to decide who to talk to again. :D</p> <p>The last thing I want to show is from an addon to Elasticsearch, called X-Pack. It's a paid addon, but it has a free 30 day trial. It has a module called Graph, where you enter certain keywords and it shows you related terms.</p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Graph of connected terms" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>To get this image, I entered Python, Ruby, cooking and Bible. As you can see, it "knows" that Python and Ruby are connected. Even more, it knows that Django is a Python framework, while Rails is a Ruby framework. PHP and Javascript are also programming languages, so they are part of that cluster. </p> <p>But cooking forms a different cluster, together with cleaning, which I should be doing :D </p> <p>Bible is another separate cluster, with study and reading. It figured out that I use the ESV Bible translation. The relationship between study and collegehumor is funny: I sent a certain link to many people, which was about "studying" and this confuses it into thinking the two are related. Alas, humour still beats modern AI techniques. </p> <p>Considering how much effort we invested into this, it gives really good results. Of course, it's helpful that I have a lot of data from which it can learn.</p> <p>I find Elasticsearch a great tool for quickly searching when I talked to someone about a certain topic and for doing some simple visualizations. It's super simple to use, but still powerful.</p> Sat, 01 Apr 2017 20:46:00 GMT,2017-04-01:/2017/04/01/indexing-im-logs-with-elasticsearch Silence <p><img alt="Silence poster" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Silence is a movie by Martin Scorsese about two Catholic priests, Rodriguez and Garupe, who go to Japan in the 17th century to find their mentor, Father Ferreira, who is rumoured to have lost the faith.</p> <p>It's a really good movie, even though it's extremely brutal. It makes you think about some really hard questions, such as where is God among suffering and when He is (or seems) silent, despite all your prayers. </p> <p>It's based on a book by Endo Shusaku. I read the book when I was 12 or 13. I found it too long and boring, but I forced myself to finish it. I think it was quite inappropriate for me at that time: I couldn't process the central conflict of the book, the dilemma the main character is faced with when he either has to apostatize or watch as other Christians are tortured because of him. I'm not sure, but I think after reading this book I somehow lost interest in reading for a long time.</p> <p>The movie stays close to the book, so it was interesting to look at the same subject more than 10 years later. What made it even more interesting was that I asked the same question last year, when the sky seemed to be falling over me, during my depression.</p> <p>While I don't agree with some of the tenets of Catholicism, I do believe that some Catholics were true believers, who loved God. In the movie you get the first impression of this when the priests arrive in Japan. Their guide takes them to some "Kirishitans" (misspelled/japanized version of the word Christian) who have to profess their faith in secret, because of persecutions. The believers are incredibly happy that God sent them some priests and shelter them. Even though they don't have enough food, they prefer to starve, so that they can feed the priests, knowing that the priests will then feed them spiritually. They have waited anxiously for years for priests to come to absolve them, to administer sacraments and to baptize their children. When the authorities realize that there are Christians around, they manage to catch four. When given the opportunity to recant, three of them refuse, so they are tied to pillars in the sea and left there to be beaten to death by the sea. The last one dies praising God and looking forward to heaven. </p> <p><img alt="Rodriguez with a local believer" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>I believe in the universal priesthood of believers (which means that you don't need a designated priest, you can go with your prayers directly to God), so I don't believe that you need priests from Portugal to have your sins forgiven. But this image of people being hungry for the Word of God is one that is very familiar: my parents did that too. Before communism fell in Romania, Christian literature was rare. My mom was an English teacher, so she speaks good English. After the revolution, several people from the church invited other saints from abroad, from the US, the Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, to help them grow and learn more about God. My mother ended up going with the foreigners to translate for them, several weeks every year.</p> <p>I also have met personally one person who has been in communist prisons for his faith, my parents know several more and I've read books about other people in my country who have been tortured for their faith. The movie just gives it a more visual face to what I already knew and makes me wonder "What kept these people going?" and I can't believe that just a lie would give them the inner strength to resist. </p> <p>After a while, the two priests part ways. They are both separately captured by the Japanese, but they take very different paths. Garupe dies trying to save other Christians from death. Rodriguez was never allowed as much freedom by his captors, but at the same time he didn't resist too much either. In the end, he recants. He steps on the fumie (a metal plaque with an "image" of Jesus) and then he helps catch other Christians, by examining objects for Christian iconography. He claims that Christ spoke to him, giving him permission to step on the image. He lives the rest of his life as a Buddhist, but when he is cremated, he is shown to hold a small cross hidden in his palms.</p> <p><img alt="Father Ferreira" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>I think Rodriguez made the wrong choice when he apostatized, especially that he knew from a discussion with some of the local believers that they were convinced that they will be going to "paraiso", where there is no hard work, no starving and no taxes. While their suffering was difficult, he should have known that in the end they would be rewarded for it, no matter how much it hurt him to watch and hear the torture.</p> <p>At the same time, it's easy to judge from my comfy chair, knowing that I've never been anywhere near any kind of persecution for my faith. I just hope and pray that when I will be in a similar situation, I will find the grace from God to act faithfully. </p> <p>While the ending is sad, I still found the movie to be enjoyable, although in the philosophical sense, not the emotional one, because it almost brought me to tears in the cinema. It's definitely not a movie to watch lightheartedly and be prepared to be confronted with some tough questions, but in a good way, I believe.</p> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 23:45:00 GMT,2017-03-10:/2017/03/10/silence Backing up 2: The NAS <figure> <p><img alt="Photo of Synology DS916+" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>My DS916+ NAS hidden behind next to a drawer in my living room</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>As I mentioned in my <a href="">previous post</a>, it's good to have various kinds of backups. Today I'm going to talk about on-site backups, in a Network Attached Storage.</p> <p>Network Attached Storages (NAS) are small form computers which usually have at least two hard drives. The hard drives are often hot swappable and can be taken out without disassembling the computer. They are meant to be always on, so they don't consume a lot of power. </p> <p>You can build your own NAS. It's not harder than building your own computer, but if you want it to look really nice and to consume few watts, you'll have to search around quite a lot for parts. The biggest hassle however is setting it up. Whether you go the Linux or Windows route, it still means configuring a server. Some people find it fun, some people don't. </p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Synology OS start screen" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>I ended up buying a pre-made Synology DS916+ unit. It's a 4 drive bay, with a quad core CPU, that consumes around 30W. It's possibly an overkill even for me, but meh, I wanted to go fancy and future-proof. I put in 3 3TB WD Red drives (so I have an empty slot).</p> <p>What convinced me to go the pre-made route? The surrounding ecosystem. Yes, I can configure my home network (with a significant amount of effort) and set-up all the backups, but there's no way I'm going to develop about 10 iOS/Android apps that Synology has. These apps enable me to browse my files from my phone, remotely, to stream my music, to have a remote photo library (including automatic backups of my photos taken with the phone), note taking app that sync back and so on. It basically offers you your very own little cloud. This I found super convenient.</p> <p>Setting it up is super easy. You just put in the hard drives, start it up, configure a few things and you've got a working NAS.</p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Storage Manager" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>One of the more important choices you have to make is how to set up your hard drives. The trade-off is between how many hard drives can fail before any data is lost and how much overhead is needed (how much space is lost). Synology supports a lot of RAID formats (0, 1, 5, 6, 10) and it's own Hybrid Raid thing. RAID 1 and 5 offer a one disk redundancy (if one disk fails, you can still recover all the data from the array), while RAID 6 gives you two disk redundancy. I went with the RAID 5 for my own NAS.</p> <p>Another choice you have to make is what file system to use. Here is where Synology has an advantage over other NAS vendors: it offers Btrfs support. This is a shiny new file system which does file level checksumming and scrubbing, where it looks for files that might have been corrupted and tries to recover them from redundant copies. It has many other features, but these were the most important to me, because they prevent silent bitrot. Bitrot is a process in which a random bit on the hard drive is flipped, corrupting data. This is because small parts of the hard disk platter lose their magnetic orientation. This happens on average about 10^(-14) times, so if you have a 10 terabyte array, it's almost guaranteed that it will happen during it's lifetime. This is usually detected only when you try to read the data, when you suddenly realize that it doesn't make sense anymore. Because btrfs has checksumming, it can figure out when files are corrupted and because it offers scrubbing, it can find out before you go looking for it, while there is still a redundant copy of the file, so it can recover it.</p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Package Center" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>There's a "Cloud Sync" app that enables you to easily backup your various online services, so I set it up with Google Drive and soon it downloaded everything. I also plugged in my external hard drive and downloaded everything from there. The files that live on my computer were copied using rsync or scp, even though the NAS has a fairly good web UI for uploading.</p> <p>After I uploaded all my photos, it spent more than a week indexing them in the Photo library app. It has a super primitive form of facial recognition, which is completely useless, but it recognizes the tags that Picasa or Windows Live Gallery inserted (and they had much better facial recognition), so I could now browse by people.</p> <p>It has a Download Station, which you can use to automatically download stuff, from random pages, torrents or even YouTube videos. </p> <p>It has an Audio Station, which I use because I listen to many sermons, not all of which come in a nice podcast, so it's just easier for me to put them on my NAS and listen to them from there. </p> <p>The Video Station is pretty impressive. It can do transcoding on the fly and you can play in your browser or on your phone. It searches for metadata for the files that you have on the internet, to show nice images and information about it. But I use Netflix for almost all my home entertainment needs, so I don't put this to good use.</p> <p>All these work both from the browser and from your mobile. This attracted me the most: the convenience of mobile. And because it has support for HTTPS, it's fairly safe (as safe as something you expose to the Internet from your living room can be).</p> <p><a href=""><img alt="Control Panel" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a></p> <p>From the Control Panel you can change most of the settings, including security ones. There are several basic ones that you have to make if you expose it to the internet, such as auto banning after several unsuccessful attempts to login.</p> <p>It also offers the option to browse over HTTPS. To avoid the complaints from the browser about a self signed certificate, I actually went and bought a domain for "my house". Synology has support for Dynamic DNS, so updating the domain to point to my IP is automatic. Also, it supports Let's Encrypt so getting the HTTPS certificate was trivial, from the Control Panel. </p> <p>It also has a web server, a mail server, a chat server and a lot of other stuff which I didn't set up. It has built-in support for Docker, so it can run whatever container you have. </p> <p>I find the DS916+ to be more than enough for my needs. Since I have it, I find it much easier to work on my various projects when I am away, because I know I can always access them even remotely, on my NAS. It's very quiet, it doesn't bother me, even though I am quite sensitive to noise. Sometimes when it starts a background process I can hear it, but most of the time it's hibernating.</p> Thu, 02 Mar 2017 21:51:00 GMT,2017-03-02:/2017/03/02/backing-up-2-the-nas Backing up <figure> <p><a href=""><img alt="Burned down computer" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></a> <figcaption>What can happen to your computer</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>In today's world, our data and our information is one of our most valuable assets. I have photos going back to 2008. My sporadic journal has digital entries from 2010. I have IM logs from 2009. I have a list of my monthly expenses since 2012. My blog goes back to 2010. I have loads of projects in various stages. Most of this information is irreplaceable (I'm never going to be 16 again, to take those photos once more :( ) and most of it is quite valuable, some having sentimental value (photos), some from a financial point of view, some professionally (my coding projects).</p> <p>Just keeping all this on my own computer was not enough. Hard drives can fail at any time, so I wanted a better back-up solution. At first, I just bought an external hard drive. I did an initial backup of everything to it... and the next one was half a year later. And then one year later. And at that time, I detected some file system level corruption and I had to spend some time recovering data. So I decided that it's not enough.</p> <p>I use various online backup services, but that means my data is in somebody else's hands. Some promise encryption, some have been known to collaborate with various governments, some have shutdown access to the entire account for an entirely different issue. It's enough to look at today's political landscape to see that this can easily become (or already is) a problem. I will still keep using it for most things, because of convenience (Google Photos is awesome and I haven't found anything remotely similar and I don't say this because I work for Google, but because it's really awesome) but I also want to have a copy of my data that is more under my hands.</p> <p>In general it's good to have several layers of backups. At least one should be on-site, for ease of access. Your computer hard drive kicks the bucket, you reach over to your external hard drive or the other computer that has the copy, and you recover the lost files. Problem solved. It's also trivial to copy things locally, because bandwidth is not an issue. </p> <p>While on-site solves the problem of individual hardware failures (unless you are really unlucky and both fail at the same time), it has another failure mode: entire home/office failures. Examples of this include a burglary, fire or floods. If any of these hit, it's likely that most electronic devices you have will stop working. To help with this, you need off-site backups. These are backups that you store in a geographically far location. The further they are, the unlikelier it is that whatever would take out either your home or your off-site backups would affect the other one too. In my case, my off-site backups will be in Romania. That's 1200 km away, so if something like a meteor hit Europe and destroyed half of it, that would cause me to lose data, but at that point I have much bigger problems than that.</p> <p>You also need to make sure that your backups will still work. It's no use if you create a backup and a year later, when you try to recover it, you discover that actually there was some bit rot and your files are unreadable. There are various ways to protect against this, from checksumming files at the file system level to using hardware redundancy (RAID arrays most commonly).</p> <p>There is a large variation on what you can do to protect your data. There is always a trade-off between safety and how much it costs. In the following posts I will go into some more details about what I use for securing my own data, starting with the on-site backup to a Network Attached Storage.</p> Mon, 20 Feb 2017 22:23:00 GMT,2017-02-20:/2017/02/20/backing-up Winter sports <p><img alt="From up close, it looks just like the wallpaper from one of the Mac OS versions" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>I've been in Switzerland for almost two and half years now, but I haven't done the typical Swiss things (except eating Fondue). Last winter I was either not here or busy at work, so I avoided all winter sports. </p> <p>But this year two opportunities came up when I could go with colleagues to do skiing or snowboarding. So I finally tried both. I had a little skiing experience from two years ago, but that was it. </p> <p><img alt="I'm on a snowboard" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>One Friday at 8 PM a colleague asked me if I wanted to go to Laax for skiing the next day. I didn't really have any plans, so I said why not. He was going to teach his girlfriend how to snowboard, so I decided I would tag along with them. The others were skiers with more experience, so I didn't want to be the clunky wheel. </p> <p>I fell on my butt more times than I can imagine and it was sore for two days. But it was fuuun!. Towards the end of the day I could go about 100 m without falling!</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen class="youtube"></iframe> <p>The week after that, my team had some visitors and during dinner, we decided we should all go skiing in Lenzerheide two days later. There was another beginner in this group, so we decided to take ski lessons together.</p> <p>Skiing went better. I remembered more than I expected since last year. I fell only about two or three times. One of which was standing in place. Whoops. Another one being the alternative to running into a fence. </p> <p><img alt="Some mountain peak around Lenzerheide" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>However, I found that I had much less control over my skis, especially with regards to speed. When you are on the snowboard, you are in an unstable equilibrium and you constantly have to balance. Because of this, as a beginner, you don't really get to a high speed, because as you go faster, it's harder to balance, so you fall before reaching a dangerous speed. It will hurt a bit, but it's unlikely to break any bones. But on the skis, you are in a stable equilibrium, so if you just do nothing as you are sliding down, you will pick up speed, with little risk of just toppling over. But then, when a turn comes, you won't be able to make it, so you'll either fall (at a much higher speed), hit the fence/tree or run off-piste. </p> <p><img alt="And off we go" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Of course, this is all true only for beginners like me. When you get to more advanced stuff, it might change, but for now, I feel more comfortable on the snowboard. And hopefully I can go again in two weeks time!</p> Sun, 05 Feb 2017 21:17:00 GMT,2017-02-05:/2017/02/05/winter-sports Sous vide with Anova Precision Cooker <p><img alt="Frontal view of Anova Cooker" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Last year I bought an Anova Sous Vide Cooker. The name is slightly misleading, because it's not generally used to cook in a vacuum, but for cooking at very precisely controlled temperatures.</p> <p><img alt="Side view of Anova Cooker" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>The advantage of using Anova is that you can cook various foods at temperatures below 100 degrees, for several hours. This way, you can avoid the degradation of certain proteins. For example, egg white starts to become solid at around 65 degrees, while the yolk at 70. If you cook the egg at just 65 for half an hour, you can get a perfect soft boiled egg, with really runny yolk, while the white is solid. </p> <p>Another advantage is that it's just easier to prepare the meat. You season it, bag it, put it in the water and you wait for a couple of hours. Because of this, it's easier to get consistent results every time. If you make a steak on the grill, the exact time you let it there matters, down to tens of seconds. When you are cooking it in the Anova for 3 hours, 5 minutes here or there are not that important.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Seasoning the chicken with salt, pepper and fine herbs " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Chicken in a bag. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The chicken cooking in the pot. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The end results: juicy, tender chicken. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/chicken_seasoned.jpg", "title": "Seasoning the chicken with salt, pepper and fine herbs\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/thumbs/chicken_seasoned.jpg", "w": 2136, "h": 1428}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/chicken_bag.jpg", "title": "Chicken in a bag.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/thumbs/chicken_bag.jpg", "w": 2136, "h": 1428}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/chicken_pot.jpg", "title": "The chicken cooking in the pot.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/thumbs/chicken_pot.jpg", "w": 2136, "h": 1428}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/chicken_final.jpg", "title": "The end results: juicy, tender chicken.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/chicken/thumbs/chicken_final.jpg", "w": 2136, "h": 1428}]</script> </div> <p>One of the first things I cooked was chicken breast. You just season it well with salt, pepper, maybe some herbs or lemon, put it in a bag and then put it in water. Depending on the water temperature, you can choose to get a really soft meat, or more tender, or more stringy. The chicken basically cooks in it's own juices, so it has a lot more flavor at the end.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Salmon in the bag in the beginning. You coat it with virgin olive oil. Optionally, add some herbs. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Salmon after it cooked for 1 hour. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/salmon/salmon_begin.jpg", "title": "Salmon in the bag in the beginning. You coat it with virgin olive oil. Optionally, add some herbs.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/salmon/thumbs/salmon_begin.jpg", "w": 2136, "h": 1428}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/salmon/salmon_end.jpg", "title": "Salmon after it cooked for 1 hour. \n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/salmon/thumbs/salmon_end.jpg", "w": 2136, "h": 1428}, {"src": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/salmon/salmon_salad.jpg", "title": "Salmon with N\u00fcsslisalat (Lamb's Lettuce), Avocado and Parmesan. Delicious!\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2017/01/anova/salmon/thumbs/salmon_salad.jpg", "w": 2136, "h": 1428}]</script> </div> <p>My best dish to date was salmon. From the first try, it came out really great. Again, no effort, no checking whether it's done. You just look at the timer and then you eat. </p> <p>Now if only I ate at home more often...</p> Sat, 28 Jan 2017 22:36:00 GMT,2017-01-28:/2017/01/28/sous-vide-with-anova-precision-cooker New year, old goals <p><img alt="Same same, but different, but still same" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>My attempt a year ago to set public goals was quite successful. I achieved most of them and the average completion score was 0.7. I took a break in the second half of the year, but now I'm well rested and I want to start again.</p> <p>I learned some things that work and some that don't. For example, tracking number of books read is not too useful, at least not in Beeminder, but tracking number of minutes spent reading is much better. This way, if you are reading through a really thick book, you are not derailed as easily. Also, tracking productivity can be done really well with Pomodoros. They are small enough to be able to do them always, but big enough to have a meaningful impact on your work.</p> <p>I also have to decide what my priorities are better. Last year I had a very large range of goals, which had me spread out into many areas, and inevitably some fell through the cracks. </p> <p>For example, I realized that in the last trip I took to Romania, I took my camera out of my bag only once. When I was in Israel, half the photos I took there where with my phone. It doesn't really make sense for me to have a goal related to my camera. I didn't even touch my photography goal last year.</p> <p>I had the piano goal last year, but I realize that now I will have to drop it. I will keep taking piano lessons, but I will play it at home on a best effort basis. I have too many other things on my plate and unfortunately, playing the piano is towards the bottom of the list, because I think it's the least beneficial for me.</p> <p>The new goals for this year are:</p> <h4>Physical</h4> <dl> <dt>Get to 82 kg by June</dt> <dd>I got to 82 kg last January and I hovered around that area until June, but then I lost the will power to stop snacking, so I put back all of that weight. Since then, I have been reading up a bit about how the body interacts with proteins, carbohydrates and fats and learned a bit about how some diets work (other than caloric restrictions). When I was 82 kg, everybody was remarking how thin I was, so for now I don't want to go lower than that, but I would like to stay there. </dd> <dt>Exercise three times a week</dt> <dd>I don't want to set specific target speeds or weights, because I have a small shoulder injury and I don't know how much it will hinder me. But I still plan to do some sort of vigorous exercise three times a week. This includes running, swimming, weightlifting, play squash, etc.</dd> </dl> <h4>Mental</h4> <dl> <dt>Read 24 books in 2017/read 30 minutes every day</dt> <dd>I read 21.5 books last year. Again, in the second half of the year, I took it easier, so I'm hoping now I can overcome that and if I keep a constant pace of 30 minutes per day, I will make it.</dd> <dt>Write 3 blog posts per month</dt> <dd>I did 2.75 blog posts last year, so maybe I can do a bit better now.</dd> <dt>Write into my journal twice a week</dt> <dd>I managed to keep this habit for half a year and it's incredible. I look back at what I wrote when I was depressed and it's shocking to me how I was seeing the world back then. And at other times, it's a good reminder of all the blessings that I've had.</dd> <dt>Spend 1 hour per week studying German on my own</dt> <dd>I have been taking German classes for two years now and it's decent, but in order to progress I have to up my individual game. For this goal, the following count: Duolingo, Babbel, Anki, reading about German grammar, doing exercises from textbooks. Exception: when travelling.</dd> <dt>Do 4 20 minute Pomodoros every day</dt> <dd>In my new team, I have longer "compilation" times, so sometimes I cannot iterate faster than this. Exception is when I am travelling or on vacation.</dd> </dl> <h4>Spiritual</h4> <dl> <dt>Read 3 chapters from the Bible every day</dt> <dd>I believe this is achievable even when I travel. At home, I will try to read more when I have time.</dd> <dt>Memorize 1 Bible verse every week:</dt> <dd>This goal didn't get touched at all last year, so I'm starting it again, in a much smaller version. I have the apps set up to help me and I'm trying to do this together with my girlfriend, so I have an accountability partner for this.</dd> </dl> <p>My goals can be seen on <a href="">my Beeminder</a>.</p> Sat, 07 Jan 2017 12:06:00 GMT,2017-01-07:/2017/01/07/new-year-old-goals 2016 in review <p><em>Wow, this post is finally done on time! Yaaaay!</em></p> <p>This year was the first time I had a goal for writing on my blog, at least for the first half of the year. In January I set up <a href="">a goal</a> to write 3.5 blog posts per month, for the first half year and I stuck to it. In the second half of the year I took it easier, so I posted on average only twice a month. In total I posted 33 times, which is more than the year before, when I posted 30 times. </p> <p>The number of pageviews went down by 21%, from 46 thousand to 36 thousand :( The number of users is slightly up, by 5%, from 13 thousand to 13.6 thousand, but number of sessions keeps going down, from 21.5 thousand to 20 thousand. But, the average time spent on my site is up almost 10%, from 1:15 minutes to 1:23 minutes!</p> <p>My blog was viewed the most on September 19, after I posted the post saying <a href="">goodbye to Alida</a>, when my blog was viewed 1185 times :(. On average, I had 101 pageviews per day, with the summer months being the most quiet ones. </p> <p>My site got 50% faster, fully loading on average in 3 seconds, while in 2015 in loaded in 6 seconds. It seems that my time spent on optimizing my Nginx configuration was worth it. </p> <p>My most popular blog post is the same, the <a href="">neural networks one</a>. The second most popular one is about Alida. Then on the 8th place is my retrospective after <a href="">two years at Google</a>. Four more posts from this year made it to top 20: the one about setting goals, the <a href="">selfie timelapse one</a>, the one <a href="">about Yahoo Messenger</a> and the one <a href="">about evaluating my goals</a>.</p> <p>My top referrals are still from Facebook, with 2700 visits from there, while the second one is Twitter, with less than a tenth of that. There is also another web page with a neural network tutorial, which links to mine, and which brought in 1500 visitors. </p> <p>New features on the blog include running it from a container and adding a search page. I also try to keep an eye on performance and occasionally perform speed optimizations.</p> <p>I am happy with how my year in blogging has been and I hope you will still read me next year!</p> Sun, 01 Jan 2017 22:46:00 GMT,2017-01-01:/2017/01/01/2016-in-review Shalom from Israel <p><img alt="Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Three jeeps, filled with mostly young and idealistic Westerners and driven by former Special Forces members, are going along the mine fields between Syria and Israel. They arrive to an abandoned Syrian hospital, with some soldiers in front of it. They go up to the rooftop, through the crumbling hospital, carefully going up staircases that have been bombed. Once they get up, their tour guide says "See that building 300 meters away? There's an Al-Qaeda sniper looking at you from there! Don't worry, if he wanted you dead, he'd have shot you a long time ago.".</p> <p><img alt="Abandoned Syrian hospital" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>That was just a short part of my trip to Israel. I had wanted to go for quite some time, to see "The Holy Land" and all the places where much of the Bible happened. In July, I found out that some friends from New York were going, so I pretended to be a New Yorker and I joined them. It was a really fun trip, both because of everything I saw and did, but also because of the opportunity to have lots of fellowship with my dear brothers and sisters from New York, Portland, Seattle and Jerusalem. </p> <figure> <p><img alt="View from the Tel Aviv office of Google" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <figcaption>View from the Tel Aviv office of Google</figcaption></p> </figure> <p>The adventures started at the airport. I made the mistake of flying El Al, the safest airline in the world. They achieve this by having their own custom security checks. When you go to the baggage drop off, somebody starts asking you questions about your luggage (both standard ones like "Who packed your bags?" and ones like "Are you taking anything to the Google office in Tel Aviv?"). Then you get a mark on your boarding pass. I got a red sign, which I'm guessing made me one of "The Marked" ones. I passed through normal security, with plenty of time to spare. I started reading a book. After about one hour, I decided to go to their special security check. It involved talking to another guy, who decided to rummage through my backpack and check all the pockets for traces of explosives. He asked me in Romanian "Ce faci?". And then he proceeded to lock my backpack in a "safe place". I was allowed to keep my book and my headphones and that's it. Yay. And then another hour of waiting. I could pick up my bag right before boarding, when they checked me again. There were only two bags that were treated like this :( But at least I had hummus on the plane!</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Herod" s amphitheather ' src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Star Trek is out, Time Trek is in :D " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/cesarea/P1140835.JPG", "title": "Herod's Amphitheather\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/cesarea/thumbs/P1140835.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/cesarea/P1140853.JPG", "title": "Star Trek is out, Time Trek is in :D\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/cesarea/thumbs/P1140853.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>But I arrived well to Tel Aviv. My bags were delayed by quite a bit, but it was fine, because in the meantime some of my friends arrived and we went together to Jerusalem in a sherut, a sort of taxi/van service. </p> <p>When our bus arrived on Saturday, we met Amitai, our guide, and George, our driver, and then we went up North. We quickly visited Caesarea, built by Herod in 20 BCE. It has the only archeological evidence for Pontius Pilatus, in the form of a stone with his name enscribed on it.</p> <p>Then we had lunch at Uriburi, a world famous sea food restaurant. I normally don't like fish very much, but I have to say, this was really good. </p> <p><img alt="View from Mount Carmel" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>In the afternoon we went up Mount Carmel, where Elijah obtained a great victory over the prophets of Baal (<a href=";version=NCV">1 Kings 18</a>). From there you can see very far in the distance and you can see part of Via Maris, the main road between Damascus and Egypt. Because of this, lots of armies had gone through the Valley of Jezreel, looking to conquer other kingdoms and in the future even more will gather there, at Megido, for Armaghedon.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Buggy riding in the desert " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Safety first " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The quiet desert " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/buggy/IMG_2826.JPG", "title": "Buggy riding in the desert\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/buggy/thumbs/IMG_2826.JPG", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/buggy/IMG_2823.jpg", "title": "Safety first\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/buggy/thumbs/IMG_2823.jpg", "w": 2576, "h": 1932}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/buggy/IMG_2839.jpg", "title": "The quiet desert\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/buggy/thumbs/IMG_2839.jpg", "w": 12304, "h": 3824}]</script> </div> <p>We spent three nights on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was a nice hostel (except for the really loud kids who went to sleep way too late), 100 meters away from the beach, so I usually went swimming every night. Lokka tried to walk on water, with various amounts of success.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Swimming out in the deep " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The Galilee at dusk " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Lokka walking on water " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/galilee/IMG_2313.JPG", "title": "Swimming out in the deep\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/galilee/thumbs/IMG_2313.JPG", "w": 4032, "h": 2884}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/galilee/P1140926.JPG", "title": "The Galilee at dusk\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/galilee/thumbs/P1140926.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/galilee/P1140949.JPG", "title": "Lokka walking on water\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/galilee/thumbs/P1140949.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>After going down the Mount of Beatitudes, we did one of the chillest things on our trip: going with an electric boat on the Sea of Galilee. As we were going out, the captain started some Hillsong songs in the background. The sun was shining, it was nice warm, the water was perfectly calm. I couldn't help but think that 2000 years ago, my Master, Jesus, sailed here, walked on water here, and the disciples were with Him, listening to Him speaking, not just to songs about Him. And then we jumped into water and swam around. And then the captain put on the theme fork Jaws. Epic trolling. xD</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Peter" s mother-in-laws house in capernaum ' src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Our group in the Capernaum synagogue " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/capernaum/P1150002.JPG", "title": "Peter's mother-in-laws house in Capernaum\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/capernaum/thumbs/P1150002.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/capernaum/P1150024.JPG", "title": "Our group in the Capernaum synagogue\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/capernaum/thumbs/P1150024.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>We did a quick run down to Capernaum, to visit the old Synagogue and then we crossed the street to get to the supposed house of Peter's mother in law. </p> <p><img alt="Jordan river" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>We went to see the Jordan river. That was a big... disappointment. In some places it was soooo narrow you could jump over it. And we walked through it, in a place of pain, because of sharp rocks, that looked like the Amazonian jungle. But at least we picked some oranges straight from a tree, so we had that going for us. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Our guide Amitai the Dreamer " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Crossroads " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="UN soldiers looking towards Syria " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/bental/P1150142.JPG", "title": "Our guide Amitai the Dreamer\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/bental/thumbs/P1150142.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/bental/IMG_2419.jpg", "title": "Crossroads\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/bental/thumbs/IMG_2419.jpg", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/bental/bental.JPG", "title": "UN soldiers looking towards Syria\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/bental/thumbs/bental.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>The next day, after the jeep ride, we had coffee at Coffee Anan (a pun on both the UN leader and the Hebrew for "Coffee of the Clouds"), the highest restaurant in Israel, on top of Mount Bental. There is a small bunker there, which was last used in the Yom Kippur war. Now it has a small UN sentinel there. </p> <p><img alt="Temple of Pan in Banias" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Then we went to Cesarea Philippi, aka Banias. This was where Jesus said "And upon this rock I shall build my Church". He said this standing in front of a pagan temple dedicated to Pan, indicating that He will overcome even that. It was the first place where I learn something completely new and eye opening. </p> <p><img alt="Odem Mountain Winery" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>In the afternoon we went to Odem Mountain Winery, a Kosher winery that has won several awards for the wines that they make. We went for a wine tasting session. The cherry wine was reaaaally good, the Chardonay was ok, but I really hated the Cabernet Sauvignon. And I learned that Rose wine is made out of red grapes, without the peels. </p> <p><img alt="Dead Sea Mud" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>On Tuesday we went to the Dead Sea. That was sooo much fun, even if in the beginning it was counterintuitive. But after you got the hang of it, it was relaxing. You could sleep better than in a hammock. The waves are gently rocking you. Just don't get water in your eyes. Then the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins, because it's the only thing you can do. If you try to put your fingers to your eyes, you just make it worse, so you have to wait until you cry out all the salt. Also, the mud there is said to be good for... something, so we all covered ourselves in mud. </p> <p><img alt="Beduin camp" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>We spent that night glemping in a beduin camp. What is glemping you ask? Glamour camping. Aka: you go camping, but you have full amenities, like at home, except you kinda sleep in some sort of a fancy tent. In our case, we were even upgraded to two person rooms, with AC units and TVs. But hey, there were peacocks walking in front of our windows. We've got that going on for us. The beduin tea was really good, but the coffee was crazy strong and horrible, even for the coffee lovers of the group, but everyone drank it, because we were afraid not to offend our hosts. </p> <p><img alt="Camel ride" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>Of course, no beduin trip would be complete without a camel ride. Because we were an odd number, I got to ride alone on a camel. It was fun. It had a nice, slow sway. If you could relax, you could enjoy the rythm, and imagine some nice hip hop music as a backdrop. Getting on and off the camel was a bit more interesting. First the camel straigthens up comletely the front legs and only then does it lift the hind legs, so for a short while, you are sitting on a very tilted surface.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Roman war machine " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="New Yorkers assaulting Massada " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The surroundings of Massada " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/masada/P1150297.JPG", "title": "Roman war machine\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/masada/thumbs/P1150297.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/masada/P1150318.JPG", "title": "New Yorkers assaulting Massada\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/masada/thumbs/P1150318.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/masada/P1150332.JPG", "title": "The surroundings of Massada\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/masada/thumbs/P1150332.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>Next up: Masada, the old Roman fortress built by Herod. Man, this homie built cribs for himself everywhere. This was a 45 minute climb, while it was 30 degrees outside. And it's basically a barren desert mountain, with some ruins. If you yell on one side of the mountain, you hear a nice echo back. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="David" s waterfall ' src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The discreete entrance to Ein Ghedi " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/ein_ghedi/P1150397.JPG", "title": "David's Waterfall\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/ein_ghedi/thumbs/P1150397.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/ein_ghedi/P1150441.JPG", "title": "The discreete entrance to Ein Ghedi\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/ein_ghedi/thumbs/P1150441.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>Then we refreshed at water springs of Ein-Ghedi, where David wrote some of his Psalms and where he hid from Saul. It's an incredibly relaxing place. It's an oasis in the desert. In a big mountain, you suddenly see a valley with some bushes around it. As you go closer, you find a lot of vegetation, animals and many springs. We stayed there until closing time, reading, relaxing, talking and just enjoying the atmosphere. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Old city at night " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Rooftops of the old city " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="View from where we stayed on the first night " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/IMG_2948.JPG", "title": "Old city at night\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/thumbs/IMG_2948.JPG", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/IMG_2949.jpg", "title": "Rooftops of the old city\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/thumbs/IMG_2949.jpg", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/P1140744.JPG", "title": "View from where we stayed on the first night\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/thumbs/P1140744.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/P1150526.JPG", "title": "That's a biiig flag\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/thumbs/P1150526.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/P1150549.JPG", "title": "View from Caiafas's house. Ghetsimane is on the other side of the valley.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem/thumbs/P1150549.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>And then we went to the Holy City, Jerusalem. First impression: it's noisy and full of people, especially in the souk and in the old city. Second impression: it's hilly. Like really hilly. I can't imagine how people got around before they had cars. You go up and down, up and down all the time. We visited a lot of stuff there, but I just want to point out a couple of highlights.</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Umbrellas in the air. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Spices in the souk " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Sweets. Oh the sweets. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/P1140765.JPG", "title": "Umbrellas in the air.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/thumbs/P1140765.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/IMG_2232.jpg", "title": "Spices in the souk\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/thumbs/IMG_2232.jpg", "w": 4032, "h": 3024}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/P1140760.JPG", "title": "Sweets. Oh the sweets.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/thumbs/P1140760.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/P1140790.JPG", "title": "Hustling and bustling in the souk.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/souk/thumbs/P1140790.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}]</script> </div> <p>In the souk we bought all kinds of sweets and exotic fruits. Really, really sweet ones. Yummy. It's really cool that you can try stuff before you buy. It's also a really good way for them to get you to buy their stuff. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="The Jewish quarter in the Old City " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="The Muslim quarter in the Old City " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Heh. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/IMG_2943.JPG", "title": "The Jewish quarter in the Old City\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/thumbs/IMG_2943.JPG", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/IMG_2985.JPG", "title": "The Muslim quarter in the Old City\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/thumbs/IMG_2985.JPG", "w": 4032, "h": 3024}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/IMG_2988.JPG", "title": "Heh. \n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/thumbs/IMG_2988.JPG", "w": 4032, "h": 3024}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/IMG_2996.jpg", "title": "I wonder if the food comes on a flying rug\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/shops/thumbs/IMG_2996.jpg", "w": 4032, "h": 3024}]</script> </div> <p>The place which got me to understand the topology of the city was when we went to the place where Peter betrayed the Lord Jesus and then we saw the supposed Upper Room, nearby, then Gethsemane, across the valley from there, and then Pontius Pilatus' hall on the other side of the city. So during that night, Jesus walked a loooooot. Also while being beaten and so on. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Future excavations under the Western Wall " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Supposed place of Golgotha (if you squint hard, you might see a skull) " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Western Wall " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/IMG_2673.JPG", "title": "Future excavations under the Western Wall\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/thumbs/IMG_2673.JPG", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/IMG_2897.JPG", "title": "Supposed place of Golgotha (if you squint hard, you might see a skull)\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/thumbs/IMG_2897.JPG", "w": 4032, "h": 3024}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/P1150475.JPG", "title": "Western Wall\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/thumbs/P1150475.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/P1150544.JPG", "title": "David's Statue\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/jerusalem_relics/thumbs/P1150544.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>The other place was at the Western (Wailing) Wall. It's the only place that still remains from Herod's temple. Two kinds of people stood out in that area: those for whom this was just a fun thing, like kids having their bar-mitzvahs and dancing their butts off, for whom this is nothing more than a tradition, something you do to integrate with your family and friends. The other people were people who actually respect the Torah and they do their best to follow what it says, but they completely miss the person to whom it points: Jesus. So sad. :(</p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Cute metal sculpture. " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="I too like to live dangerously " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Another kind of watch face " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/P1150075.JPG", "title": "Cute metal sculpture.\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/thumbs/P1150075.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/mines.JPG", "title": "I too like to live dangerously\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/thumbs/mines.JPG", "w": 4032, "h": 3024}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/P1140788.JPG", "title": "Another kind of watch face\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/thumbs/P1140788.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/P1150565.JPG", "title": "Funny statues in Joppa\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/thumbs/P1150565.JPG", "w": 4272, "h": 2856}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/rolladin.jpg", "title": "Rolladins :X:X\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/misc/thumbs/rolladin.jpg", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}]</script> </div> <p>Underneath the Western Wall there are several layers of history. The first layer is what the Ottomans built there. They actually raised the whole city, so that access to the Temple Mount would be easier. Under that is what Herod did, who expanded the top of mountain, so that he could build a bigger temple. Under that are remnants from David's city. And you just look at all those 500 tonne stones and the 533 m long tunnel, built by Hezekiah, carved out of stone, and wonder how on Earth did they ever do that, without all the modern equipment that we have today. </p> <div class="gallery clearfix" style="max-width:600px"> <img title="Warning sign when entering Betlehem " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <img title="Modern Statue in Betlehem, with an Internet address " src="" style="display:block" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/> <script type="application/json">[{"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/betlehem/betlehem.JPG", "title": "Warning sign when entering Betlehem\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/betlehem/thumbs/betlehem.JPG", "w": 3024, "h": 4032}, {"src": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/betlehem/P1150552.JPG", "title": "Modern Statue in Betlehem, with an Internet address\n", "msrc": "/static/images/2016/12/israel/betlehem/thumbs/P1150552.JPG", "w": 2856, "h": 4272}]</script> </div> <p>We also went to Betlehem, which is in the West Bank, under Arab control. It has several "scary" warnings on entry, but it doesn't have too much to see unfortunately.</p> <p><img alt="Tel Aviv beach" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>On our last day we went to Joppa and Tel Aviv, where we spent the day on the beach and then we said sad goodbyes to each other :(</p> <p><img alt="Simon the Tanner's house" src="" width="100%" style="max-width:600px"/></p> <p>I really miss the NYC crew (and the people from Portland and Seattle)! It was a really blessed, fun time together and I hope I can see them again soon!</p> Thu, 22 Dec 2016 20:00:00 GMT,2016-12-22:/2016/12/22/shalom-from-israel